WHERE: Foster Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
WHEN: 2 p.m. today
RUNNING TIME: 1 hour and 45 minutes, including an intermission
INFORMATION: 338-2100 or www.galloarts.org
The residents of Tuna, Texas, aren't the most forward-thinking lot.
They want to ban Shakespeare, their young people write essays with titles such as "Human Rights — Why Bother?" and they would like to delete objectionable words from the dictionary.
But as portrayed in the very funny comedy "Greater Tuna," now running at the Gallo Center for the Arts, you can't help but love them. They all want to do the right thing and are trying their best.
Created by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howard, the show debuted in 1981 in Austin, Texas, and has since been performed at community and professional theaters all over the country.
The show doesn't have a plot but instead provides a slice-of-life look at one small rural town. The show jumps between scenes, alternately checking in on a radio community affairs show, a dissatisfied wife with three kids, the humane society director and a used-weapons dealer, among others.
Twin brothers Robert and Joseph Hypes show off impressive versatility by playing more than 20 characters, both human and animal, in this Playhouse Merced production. Performed in front of a simple set that includes a huge Texas map and a family kitchen, the show is a huge improvement over the company's poorly executed "A Christmas Carol" a couple of months ago.
Some of the characters that made me giggle the most were Yippy the Dog, who has been pet of the week five times but is never adopted; Bertha Bumiller, who wants to ban "Roots" because it shows only one side of slavery; and the Rev. Spikes, president of the Smut Snatchers of the New Order.
Didi Snavely, owner of Didi's Used Weapons, doesn't play as well, and sometimes her bits run on too long.
It also seems odd when the show briefly turns onto darker material, like murder. It doesn't fit the otherwise light-hearted tone.
But those concerns are minor in comparison to the many positives about this production. It was sad that the 444-seat Foster Theater was much less than half full for Friday's opening performance. This play deserves bigger audiences.