COLUMBIA -- In general, sequels rarely are as good as originals, and that's the case with "Red, White and Tuna," now being staged by Sierra Repertory Theatre at the Fallon House.
"Greater Tuna," which debuted in 1981, was a hilarious look at a tiny Texas town (population 568) and its eccentric residents. In 1989, writers Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard followed up with "A Tuna Christmas," then turned out "Red, White and Tuna" in 1998.
While I didn't see "Tuna Christmas," I had a sense that by "Red, White and Tuna" the writers were finding it hard to come up with new angles on their old material.
In "Red, White and Tuna," as with the original, just two men play all the characters, which include Vera Carp, the town snob; Petey Fisk, employee of the Greater Tuna Humane Society; Didi Snavely, owner of Didi's Used Weapons; and Star Birdfeather, a flower child and former Tuna resident.
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This time, it's the Fourth of July and the town is having its annual homecoming reunion and fireworks show. A town black sheep returns as a big success, a woman wonders what happened to her missing husband, and a gay theater director clashes with the town's Smut Snatchers club.
Sierra Rep's staging, directed by Russell Garrett, is, as always, professionally presented with top-notch actors who have extensive backgrounds performing all over the country.
Mark Chambers, last seen as Pap Finn in Sierra Rep's "Big River," and Bill Mootos easily handle the challenge of slipping in and out of all the different characters. They have a great time playing up the oddball traits of each while still making them seem like people we'll all know.
Both are great, but Chambers shines brighter, especially in his affectionate portrayal of Bertha, the harried single mom who finds another shot at love with a local radio personality, and Aunt Pearl, a feisty senior who knows how to hot-wire a car.
Eric D. Diaz's versatile single set includes space for a radio studio, a weapons store and a family home.
Though the show isn't as strong as the original "Tuna" installment, it still pleases audiences across the country. Those who attended Sunday's matinee gave it a rousing standing ovation.
For more on Modesto area arts, visit www.twitter.com/milleganrenner and visit Bee Scene on video at videos.modbee.com.