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USF’s ‘Greater Tuna’ highlights colorful small-town characters
by Carin M. Miller
Sep 30, 2010 | 649 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michael Daly, left, as Pearl Burras and George Walker as Stanley Bumiller in the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s 2010 production of “Greater Tuna.” The fall season runs through Oct. 23.
Michael Daly, left, as Pearl Burras and George Walker as Stanley Bumiller in the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s 2010 production of “Greater Tuna.” The fall season runs through Oct. 23.
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CEDAR CITY – The Utah Shakespearean Festival’s opening of the satirical comedy “Greater Tuna,” directed by Brian Vaughn, left audience members both shocked by the characters and riddled with laughter.

The play, written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, takes place in the third smallest town in the state of Texas and features a variety of good-ol’-boy-country characters. The story highlights 20 of the stereotypical, backwoods misfits one might find in a small town in the middle of nowhere. The Catch: all 20 characters are played by only two actors, Michael Daly and George Walker.

Set in the studio of OKKK Radio, radio personalities Thurson Wheelis (Daly) and Arles Struvie (Walker) take the audience on a journey through the small town, stopping to visit with only the most interesting characters along the way.

From the youngest cast member, Jody Bumiller (Walker) who is constantly followed around by at least eight to 10 dogs everywhere he goes, to his mother Bertha Bumiller, a “card-carrying member of the Smut Snatchers of the New Order” who has vowed to have books like “Roots” pulled from the children’s schools because they don’t properly represent the “other side” of slavery, these eccentric personalities push every boundary they can find to provoke laughter.

As expected from USF all the necessary elements of stage magic were present during the performance.

Stage designer Jo Winiarski did a fantastic job of creating a transitional environment that helps move the story through the neighborhood, including a giant metal frame of hubcaps the size of the stage that shook with fury during the UFO sighting later that night.

The costumes, designed by Jennifer Caprio, were as full of individuality as the townsfolk themselves. The vibrant colors of the flavorful apparel were as bold as the people the clothing adorned, and each get-up gloriously accentuated its owner’s persona.

From the “flying Chalupa in the sky,” a.k.a. the UFO, reported by resident drunk R.R. Snavely (Daly) to the horrible act of repeatedly running over a dead dog to make it look as though the dog wasn’t poisoned, there was no stone unturned during this one and a half hour ho-down.

Speaking of ho-downs, the atmosphere would not have been complete without the fantastically-engineered sound provided by Barry G. Funderburg. Although the timing was off on some occasions, like when Mrs. Bumiller opened her screen door, the toe-tapping, old school music of artists like Patsy Cline, Willy Nelson and Johnny Cash left the audience members smiling and wiggling in their chairs.

Though many audience members enjoyed the play thoroughly, some were offended by the bold presentation of sensitive topics. Either way, one thing is sure; this play is not for the easily offended.

“Greater Tuna” will run until Oct. 23 at the Randall L. Jones Theatre. Tickets are available at bard.org or by calling (800) PLAYTIX.

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