Stage Review


    To live and die in Greater Tuna

    By Dany Margolies

    The dictionary has too many naughty words in it, up with which the Texas town of Greater Tuna will not put. Vera Carp, vice president of Smut Snatchers, gray-haired and bespectacled, steps to the pulpit before a funeral service can commence to incite excising from the dictionary such expletives as “hot,” “clap” and “ball.”

    During the funeral oration by the Rev. Spikes, Vera, seated next to him, dozes off. As she relaxes, she slips down in her chair, revealing her panties — leopard skin patterned.

    Hypocrisy and prejudice get quite the lampooning in “Greater Tuna,” currently in production at Hermosa Beach Playhouse. Still, each of the 20 characters has a heart and a history, and no matter how citified we are, we would find it a delightful evening to chat with any of them.

    These 20 characters — men, women, children and a yapping dog named “Yippy” — are played by two terrific actors, Trip Plymale and Richard Kinter. Plymale also directs, and although the pacing is as languorous as an August afternoon in Texas, the intelligence and wit of the staging amply compensate.

    The actors’ physical characterizations are so precise that one can quickly recognize each character even after he or she changes outfits. And change they do, with improbable speed and accuracy. Who has ever before seen actors bring their dressers out for a curtain call?

    The costumes, designed by Thomas G. Marquez, include wigs, jewelry, glasses, shoes, and such details as padded hips for the pear-shaped, teen-age, wannabe cheerleader, Charlene, and a cellulite-laden fanny for her mother, Bertha Bumiller.

    Sound (John Feinstein) is crisp and informative, lighting (Liz Stillwell) is loving and convincing. The single set (Michael L. Head), painted flats showing wasteland as a backdrop for a desk, chairs, bench and a radio, amply suggests the town and its atmosphere.

    “Greater Tuna” plays through Sunday, evenings at 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. only, at Hermosa Beach Playhouse, Pier Avenue at PCH. Tel. 372-4477.