“Tuna” Cast Impresses in This Fun Production
OFTENTIMES a Thursday-night opening is treated like a “live” dress rehearsal, but you would never have known it in what was a virtually seamless opening night for the two-man cast of “Greater Tuna.” This highly recommended show, put on by Midtown/Sheri Grace Productions, runs through April 21 at The Charleston Acting Studio on James Island (behind Walgreens on Folly Road).
The only miscue of the night—if, indeed, it was one—happened when a fake moustache fell onto the table. But the manner it which it was handled by both actors was a testimony to their stage experience and improv skills. Even more kudos are deserving if it was an intended faux pas meant to elicit laughter, which it certainly did.
Robin Burke and Robbie Thomas, directed by Rob Maniscalo (yes, three Bobs), have put together a solid production about this Texas take and sometimes searing satire on southern conservative values, mores, and social dilemmas.
The rampant wit comes from a clever 1981 script (by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard) whose comedic effect is magnified by having two men play some ten roles each. Men in drag is usually hilarious, especially when not overdone, and in the best of cases—as we had last night—it provides a vehicle for versatility.
Robbie Thomas is known around town for his bold and playful gutsyness on stage, and he lives up to his reputation in this play. Robbie covers the spectrum from naïve, to sweet, to ornery, to downright scary mean as well as anyone, and he relishes in the roaming. You have to see for yourself his transformations from DJ to hillbilly to “momma” (to name just a few) to appreciate what he does and how much fun he has doing it.
Robin Burke was known to me only from Creative Spark’s productions of Sprouts Theatre for children, where, among other roles, he played a delicious stepsister in “Cinderella” (read our review). Notwithstanding the caliber of the Sprouts productions, I was pleasantly astonished by Robin’s range and conviction. I knew that he had innate stage presence, but I did not know he was so accomplished and effortless in his technique.
For one thing, Robin has a penchant for nailing the perfect facial expression of each character he depicts. Whereas many actors engage a character primarily through body language and gesture, Robin starts (it seems) with the face and lets the rest fall into place very naturally. This and masterful voice control make him at once captivating, believable, and entertaining—especially when he is playing multiple roles within minutes of each other.
Particularly poignant, and in nice contrast to the evening’s humor, is Robin’s rendition of a mentally anguished young man praying to God for help for the animals.
“Greater Tuna”—the ‘third smallest town in Texas’—is, without question, the place to visit for an evening of comedic fun and fine acting.
Learn more about Midtown/Sheri Grace Productions