Cameron Pfahler previews the newest work from Atlantic Beach Experimental Theater (ABET). Allen Morton and Blake Michael Osner are the whirlwind duo portraying nearly 20 different characters on ABET’s stage, which switches between Tuna, Texas and the bright lights of Las Vegas. The latest theatre destination is Tuna, Texas. Pack your bags, grab your tickets, and fly over to a place where good times and zany weirdos are in equal, plentiful supply. Check out more after the jump!
When stories featuring colorful characters doing unfathomable things hits the media, it’s not uncommon for them to be located in Florida. In a similar fashion though, Texas boasts its own notoriety of exaggeration, insanity, and general I-can’t-believe-someone-actually-did-that.
These qualities are at the heart of the Greater Tuna series (www.greatertunavisitorscenter.com/), four plays written by Joe Sears, Ed Howard, and Jaston Williams, featuring the denizens of the “third-smallest town in Texas.”
The original debuted in Austin by 1981, followed by Off-Broadway in 1982, a broadcast on the HBO Playhouse in 1984, (kind of fun to watch all 50 minutes of the video) and national tours circulating for almost 30 years. And now, the larger-than-life shenanigans continue with the Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre’s Tuna Does Vegas.
What begins as a local disc jockey declaring his intention to renew his wedding vows in Sin City on Valentine’s Day becomes an exodus of crazy, when numerous characters of Tuna decide that they, too, want to make the trek to Nevada. You can take the people out of Tuna, but the Tuna madness fits in right at home in Las Vegas. Scenes feature Morton and Osner interacting as various pairs of citizens, sometimes two or even three pairs in a single scene. With a marathon of costume changes long enough to make the most cardio-qualified drag queen wheeze, the two actors hop into each role with flourish and chutzpah. The more ostentatious wigs, outfits, and heels lend an immediate merriment to the audience, but it’s the comedic team’s efforts onstage that truly earn the larger laughs from the crowd.
Cody Russell’s direction keeps the high jinks from becoming redundant or overblown, utilizing the actors in ways that allow the wilder moments to ring true, as these characters are far from self-aware when it comes to their behaviors and predilections. From the overzealous vice president of Smut Snatchers and the no-nonsense Aunt Pearl to the flamboyant director of gender-swapping musicals and the effervescent but height-challenged Wo-Hu, it’s easy to see how much work it takes to reign in characters who reside in the stratosphere of whack-job humor.
Russell’s set design carries the audience through various locations, all arranged by stage manager Milan Alley during the scene changes. Alley is then backstage with Judy Hulett, Betsy Darnell, and Michelle Wiggins the rest of the time, assisting in the seamless transitioning of more than 40 costume changes. Bryan Frank’s lighting and sound design play up the battle between country and disco music on the radio and more than one rainbow-lit dancing session.
There’s only one weekend left to get your tickets to Tuna. It’s a trip that both glorifies and satirizes small-town life and all the people that give it its sometimes rough, sometimes soft texture. And as the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas---including the laughs.
text by cameron pfahler
Tuna Does Vegas
by Ed Howard, Joe Sears, Jaston Williams
MAR 11 12 13* 18 19 20* 25 26
... FRI & SAT 8PM *SUN 2PM
directed by Cody Russel
stage manager: Milan Alley
starring Allen Morton and Blake Michael Osner
MORE INFO: www.ABETtheatre.com
TICKETS : https://abet-s24e05.eventbrite.com/
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A hilarious new installment from the legendary Greater Tuna creative team! Tuna Does Vegas re-unites the lovable and eccentric characters from the ‘third smallest town in Texas’ as they take a rambling romp in Sin City.