Guest post by Pat Reardon.
Red White and Tuna, the newest production by the San Jose Stage Company, is the latest adventure of the residents of Tuna Texas, the third smallest town in the state. It is the most recent installment in the regional trilogy by Jason Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard which debuted in 1981. This new presentation takes the audience back to the town noted for its bible belt Baptists, pistol packn’ mamas, Dallas style drag queens and pastors on parole. Fans of the original Greater Tuna and a Tuna Christmas will be thrilled to see their favorite characters still alive and kicking in the country’s favorite wide patch in the road.
Greater Tuna, the first in the series, has become one of the most frequently produced plays in the country.
No wonder. The zany characters delivering lightning quick Texas colloquialisms are so full of fun and frivolity that you are sure that somewhere in the great state of Texas Molly Ivans and Anne Richards are turning over and laughing in their graves.
This Tuna turn brings the High School Alums back to town to celebrate a class reunion. The 21 eccentric characters are played to perfection by two great actors, Kevin Blackton and Michael Patrick Gaffney. They morph from one character to another with flawless ease. Men, women, old, young, straight, gay… each and every one of them is delivered with style. The transitions are enabled by seamless off-stage costume and character changes that happen faster than a quick trip to the outhouse.
Blackton is a Stage regular and a terrific talent. We have enjoyed him in Urinetown The Musical, The Great American Trailer Park Musical and The Seafarer, amongst a myriad of other productions at the Stage and elsewhere in the Bay Area. Blackton’s 10 characters are trumped by his portrayal of Bertha Bumiller, the former head of the Better Baptist Bureau who is completely overwhelmed by her impending nuptials to Arles Struvie the local DJ. His daily show on OKKK chronicles the comings and goings of the local nut cases.
As incredible as Blackton’s various characters are, nothing is more memorable than Gaffney’s Didi Snavely and Vera Carp. Along with his seven other nitwits he steals the show. Didi Snavely is the owner of the local gun store, Didi’s Used Weapons, whose motto is “If we can’t kill it, it is immortal!”. She is the dire enemy of Vera Carp, the head of the Tuna Smut Snatchers of the New Order, a group dedicated to banning books and censoring words that might offend good Baptist sensibilities. Which is pretty much anything interesting. Michael Patrick Gaffney is a noted Bay Area performer and a Tuna alumnus. This presentation is his debut at the Stage. Let’s hope that we have ample opportunity to see him in the future.
The minimalist stage leaves our imagination free to wander the great Texas plain. Kudos to Eileen Barnes’ costumes which are chock-a-block full of big hair, cat eye glasses, overalls, blue jeans, poofie dancing skirts and two-toned cowboy boots.
Want a chance to escape your troubles for an evening? Are you sick of the oil slick? In despair over drowning 401Ks? Riled up over politician’s robo-calls? Do you love satire and politically incorrect humor? If so, run on down to the San Jose Stage and be prepared to laugh your red, white and blues away. Red White and Tuna is funnier than a flash flood in a Fizzie factory!
Red, White and Tuna
4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Randall King
Written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard
Starring Kevin Blackton and Michael Patrick Gaffney
Red White and Tuna runs through July 4