Corey Music & Ryan Watson in Greater Tuna. Photo courtesy The Bard’s Town.
Written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard
Directed by Doug Schutte
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2017 Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
Greater Tuna is a 1981 stage comedy that has become a modern classic, and a favorite of regional theater companies almost since its premiere. The first in a series of four plays centered on the same bunch of loony characters inhabiting the tiny titular town in Texas, it’s a very funny show when done well. It’s a difficult undertaking, traditionally performed by two actors taking on nearly two-dozen roles and lightning-fast costume changes, but it is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Probably every professional, school, or community theater has tackled the show at some point.
Now Louisville’s own Bard’s Town Theatre is taking a whack at it, and the results are for the most part very rewarding.
The play covers roughly a day in the life of the residents of Tuna, Texas, the third-smallest town in the state. The big news of the day is the local judge has died of a stroke, and the action concerns the various reactions of the town’s residents. It’s a generally light-hearted and broad comedy, but it does take a couple of rather dark turns.
All of the characters are performed with gusto by two of the Bard’s Town’s regular performers, Corey Music and Ryan Watson, and their performances are nothing short of brilliant. They are believable in every role, playing men, women, and children at various times, and they each have a different take on creating multiple characters, and it’s interesting to see the two techniques jell. Mr. Music uses more of his physicality and body language to differentiate, and Watson relies more on his vocalizations. It really is impressive.
Doug Schutte’s direction keeps things flowing, and he has wisely allowed the actors full range. There are a couple of odd transitions and long pauses while the actors change (one moment in particular, when one of the actors had to break character and change costume on stage was awkward and pulled me out of the performance), but it’s such a fun show that it seems like splitting hairs. Technical aspects were also nicely done, with a convincing but simple set design and lighting effects. There were a couple of late lighting and sound cues on the night I attended, but the actors covered them well, even making a rather funny bit about it in one case.
All in all, this is the type of show that shows what live theater is all about, and it went over well with the audience on the night I attended. The whole Greater Tuna series has a following, and this is a production that should please the devotees and newcomers alike.
Starring Corey Music and Ryan Watson.
February 24 – March 10, 2017
The Bard’s Town Theatre
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204
Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.