Catch the Hilarious “TUNA DOES VEGAS”

ATLANTIC EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE REVIEW

DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]

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ABET opened the North Florida Premier of the hilarious comedy “Tuna Does Vegas” on March 11, 2016. It will be on stage through March 26 in Atlantic Beach.

The wild and crazy duo of the Tuna franchise was created by Joe Sears, Ed Howard, and Jaston Williams. They first launched “Greater Tuna” in 1981, followed by “A Tuna Christmas” in 1989 and “Red and White and Tuna” in 1998. “Tuna Does Vegas” premiered in 2007 and it has finally made it to Jacksonville. Readers may be familiar with the other “Tunas,” but it has been a few years since one was done locally; the last we recall was “Christmas” at Players by the Sea in 2006.

Tuna 038In case you are a “Tuna Virgin,” we will fill you in on what to expect. The casting is a challenge, requiring two very energetic and talented male actors, who play all the parts, and involve a whirlwind of costume changes. The shows always open at the studio of OKKK radio, located in Tuna, the third -smallest town in Texas. The station’s two co-hosts, Arles Struvie (Blake Michael Osner) and Thurston Wheelis (Allen Morton), are on the air every day, gossiping and playing music. Town folk (all portrayed by either Mr. Osner or Mr. Morton) drop by frequently. They have various agendas and include Didi Snavely (who sells guns), Vera Carp, the Smut Snatcher who sniffs books for words to ban, soft-spoken Aunt Pearl and … well the list goes on but all the characters are eccentric and truly funny.

The plot for this version of Tuna concerns Arles and his wife Bertha who are going to renew their wedding vows in Las Vegas. He announces his intentions on the air and suddenly everyone else in Tuna decides they are going to Vegas too.

The characters come to the station or to Struvie’s home to talk about why they are planning a visit to Vegas. Joe Bob is trying to lose weight on the Rush Limbaugh diet (you are only allowed to eat what you can spell). One of the funniest of the women was Charlene, Bertha’s always pregnant daughter. Pet collector and protector Petey Fisk drops by; he is crusading against declawing cats, and is concerned about the well-being of captive tigers in Vegas.

Tuna 042Vera and Pearl are a real hoot in their flight to Vegas. The two don’t have much in common but are together for most of the flight which takes a long time, as they’ve selected the absolute cheapest airline available, with stops in five cities.

The gang checks into the Hula A. Châteaux Hotel, which is not a luxury address. Tuna has added some new characters. Blake plays Donna, the hostess with the mostest (purple hair, colorful dress). Allen is Shot, the house detective and a bail bondsman, who wears an outrageously loud orange Hawaiian shirt. He’s famous: he was given the nickname of Shot because he was accidently shot by Frank Sinatra as a baby!

tuna action 555Well as you know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but as you know, Vegas is filled with Elvis impersonators, so we will only tell you that the action includes a very funny scene where Osner playing Elvis (# 42) meets Morton as (Elvis #7). And Aunt Pearl hits it big on a slot machine, and wants to spend her winnings quickly before the IRS finds out.

The Dual Critics saw the show on a Saturday night, on its second performance, and the house was filled with laugh-happy theatre patrons (and we were included). Mr. Osner and Mr. Morton were positively amazing with timing and lines, while on stage constantly in different hilarious roles for two full hours of this two-act laugh riot.

tuna action 259Having accomplished actors was a plus for this show, but the production team deserves applause as well. The Director was Cody Russell, who stays busy choreographing shows or acting in the capacity of musical director.

There were a total of nine scenes, and the entire audience can vouch for the efficiency of Milan Alley, who as Stage Manger was constantly on and off the set, changing furniture, paintings, and props.

The many costumes and wigs were marvelous and were selected and created by the two performers. (Hey, Blake and Allen, it’s time take this show on the road after it closes. St. Augustine and Fernandina would love it).

The quick changes involved in this production would not have been possible without the fantastic ladies back stage, who included Judy Hulett, Betsy Darnell, Stephanie Szabo, Laura Young, and Michelle Wiggins.

Also on the Production Team were Bryan Frank (Lighting and Sound Design), Andrew McCraney (Light Board Operator), Cody Russell (Set Design), and Gordon Frank (Lighting Crew).

If you tasted a “Tuna” production in the past, you will like this latest edition. If you are new to “Tuna,” it will tickle your funny bone and is sure to make you a fan. For reservations and additional information, call 904-249-7177 or visit abettheatre.com

 

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.