‘Red, White and Tuna’ has Texas wit, charm

Stage Review

John Williams (left, first and second photo) and Bill Hubbard bring small-town Texas to life as they portray 22 individual characters, or roughly 10-percent of the population of Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas using costume changes and different voices. Victoria McGee photo

In “Red, White and Tuna” while playing Didi Snavely, the proprietor of Didi’s Used Weapons, John Williams offers these sage words — “If you can’t get shot in a small town in Texas you’re not trying very hard.” The comedy of “Red, White and Tuna” requires great character diversity as well as a fast pace combined with two dozen quick costume changes. On its opening night, the performance was a little uneven but still very funny as a result of the strong comedic line delivery of Williams and William Hubbard.

The duo play 22 individual characters, or roughly 10-percent of the population of Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas. This sequel to “Greater Tuna” centers on a town reunion, Independence Day weekend and the wedding of Arles Struvie (Williams) to Bertha Bumiller (Hubbard).

The happy couple is registered at DiDi’s “boutique.” Her husband, R.R. Snavely (Hubbard), may have been abducted by aliens. Other amusing subplots and characters include Bertha’s Aunt Pearl Burras (Hubbard), famous for her prize-winning potato salad; and Helen Bedd (Hubbard) and Inita Goodwin (Williams), co-owners of Helen & Inita’s Hot-to-Trot Catering. Hoping to meet men at the Fourth of July festivities, Bedd observes of a smiling admirer, “I’ve seen more teeth in the front row of a Willie Nelson concert.”

Hubbard’s cartoonish and wild interpretations of the bevy of characters he plays are more colorful and distinctive, but Williams presents a very strong and funny characterization of Vera Carp, Tuna’s town snob and backhanded compliment queen.

Carp, who intends to be crowned the reunion queen, is aghast when Joe Bob Lipsey (Hubbard), director of the Tuna Little Theater, wins the crown in a landslide as a write-in candidate. Carp expresses “this isn’t the type of queen we had in mind.”

Victoria McGee photo

This is just rewards for her opposition to Lipsey’s musical revue, “Red, White, and Fabulous!”, which has been banned for its usage of the line “I get no kick from champagne,” which is a clear violation of Tuna’s dry county laws to Carp.

The lightening speed in which both actors switch from male to female costumes is another “Tuna” highlight and credit to dressers Kimberly Dobson and Justin Fernandez as well as costume designer Vicki Nelson. Caro Walker’s scenic painting of a barren West Texas plain, interrupted only by an endless line of telephone poles and a “Tuna” water tower provides ideal mood setting as do the many songs chosen to underscore the scenes like Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans” and Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.”

* ProArts Playhouse presents “Red, White and Tuna” by Ed Howard, Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, directed by Victoria McGee. Performances continue at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through July 2 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $26 and available by phone at 463-6550 or online at www.proartsmaui.com.