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Greater Tuna

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GREATER TUNA, Center Theater and the Musical Repertorie Theatre, at the Theatre Building. Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard's comedy, which features two actors playing 20 wacky residents of a tiny Texas backwater, is a sweet nothing of a play. Even the nastier members of this closed, whites-only society--a Klan leader, an alcoholic father, a cracked old lady who likes to poison dogs--come off as just plain folks in this softhearted, softheaded script.

Williams, Sears, and Howard can't seem to decide whether they're writing a sharp satire of southern sins or painting a heartwarming, Mayberry-esque portrait--and fail to do either. But a bigger problem is that they fumble the play's gimmick, refusing to indulge in the kind of thrilling quick-change artistry that powers Charles Ludlam's brilliant two person, eight-character farce The Mystery of Irma Vep. Instead, each costume change is timed at such a leisurely pace that the actors' transformations end up being more tedious than magical.

This problem is magnified when the play falls into the hands of a lackluster duo like this one. Brian Posen in particular doesn't have the range to play ten very different characters. He gives us one --admittedly a sweet one--in ten different costumes and wigs. His women are especially unconvincing. Dan Allar fares better, though he too falls prey to director Ben Tweel's snail-in-molasses pace, which practically guarantees that the audience will be ahead of the performers 100 percent of the time. --Jack Helbig

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