Before commencing this review of Tuna's Greatest Hits at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, we bring you a news update from radio station OKKK: Judge Roscoe Buckner is still dead, but his corpse was not found clad in a bikini. It was a one-piece Dale Evans swimsuit. Furthermore:
The Smut Snatchers of the New Order continue to monitor the content of library shelves. And Didi Snavely still operates Didi's Used Weapons, standing firmly by the guarantee, “If Didi's Can't Kill It, It's Immortal.”
In other words, it's business as usual in the fictional hamlet of Tuna, Texas. Starting in the 1980s with Greater Tuna, and followed by A Tuna Christmas, Red, White and Tuna and Tuna Does Vegas, these comedies have satirized small towns and small minds everywhere with a seductive blend of satire and affection.
The format is as simple as it is inspired. Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, who write the plays with director Ed Howard, portray various male and female citizens of Tuna. The “Greatest Hits” compilation cherry-picks scenes from all four plays. But it's no hodge-podge.
Continuity is sound, and director Howard keeps the pace skipping along merrily and smoothly. If you're a longtime Tuna fan, you may catch yourself moving your lips with the dialogue.
The portly Sears is as regal as ever as Aunt Pearl Burras, the dowager's dowager. And he is contrastingly frazzled as unhappily married Bertha Bumiller.
Williams is wonderfully sharp-edged as Vera Carp, the town's social lioness and co-chair of the Smut Snatchers. And Williams provides a serving of poignance as Petey Fisk, the animal shelter drone who is quietly desperate to find homes for a growing population of stray dogs. Petey's Prayer remains a classic.
Both actors anchor the show as OKKK broadcasters Arles Struvie (Williams) and Thurston Wheelis (Sears). In a particularly memorable bit, Arles persuades Baptist Bertha to drink some spiked punch.
The only trouble with an anthology like this is that some good stuff is always left out. In "Greatest Hits" we don't get to see Helen and Inita, the Tastee Kreme girls or Joe Bob Lipsey, the little theater director whose crowning achievement was an all-white production of A Raisin in the Sun.
But in their place is a tasty banquet that makes one ask if the Tuna plays have ascended to the status of national treasure.
They have, they have.