Piccolo Spoleto’s Greater Tuna’ captures essence of small town
Tuna, Texas, used to be a real town.
In “Greater Tuna,” the zany two-hander by Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, the eponymous town is fictitiously depicted. But according to the Texas State Historical Association, a community named Tuna once existed in west central La Salle County.
If you’re headed to “Greater Tuna,” which opens today at 3 p.m. at the Charleston Acting Studio as part of Piccolo Spoleto, here are some tidbits you need to know.
Tuna, Texas, is the “third smallest town in the state,” according to the 2010 census. This places the population of Tuna very close to 200, in competition with Pawnee or Leona. But with a cast of two men playing around two dozen featured denizens, everybody begins to look very familiar.
There are five people in the Bumiller family. It’s not easy to tell them apart. Hank Bumiller is the patriarch, with children Stanley, Jody, and Charlene. But matriarch Bertha Bumiller will be onstage the most. She is the center of town life and a member of the Smut Snatchers.
The Smut Snatchers of the New Order ban books. Reverend Spikes is the President of the Smut Snatchers, of course.
Petey Fisk has a lisp. This explains why you can barely understand the words coming out of his mouth as he persistently discusses which animals he’s been caring for at the Greater Tuna Humane Society.
Patsy Cline is the artist of choice at the OKKK radio station. Arles Struvie plays the same Patsy Cline records over and over again.
“Greater Tuna” was written in 1981. Sears and Williams have been performing this show for more than 30 years. They wrote two follow-ups, “A Tuna Christmas” and “Red, White and Tuna.” The men based their entire careers on these shows, with Sears receiving a 1995 Tony nomination for the Broadway run of “A Tuna Christmas.”
There are a dozen opportunities to see this show during Piccolo Spoleto. It runs today through June 2 at the Charleston Acting Studio, 915 Folly Road.
Lauren Smart is a Newhouse School graduate student.