By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Bi-level scenery by Schmidt incorporates fuzzy video images. The floor bears the original Farnsworth test pattern, a flat geometric image that filled the small screen between telecasts. Yes, children, there once was a time when television took a rest when there was nothing on it worth watching.
Thirty years after their debuts in Greater Tuna, actor-writers Joe Sears and Jaston Williams are still tirelessly touring, having aged nicely into their older characters' stooped postures and slower walks. They've been performing their two-hander plays, co-written with and directed by Ed Howard, about Texas' "third smallest town" since Hector was a pup. Their latest, Tuna's Greatest Hits, stitches together some of the funniest scenes from all the Tunas. It's at the Eisemann one more weekend.
Even if you've seen Greater Tuna and all its sequels, see this one, too. Sears and Williams, two of this state's greatest actors, never miss a lick. They're as hilarious as they ever were and the material, much of it about the moralizing hogwash and hypocrisy of small-minded bigots, is timelier than ever.
I first fell in love with Tuna's smut-snatching citizenry — Arles Struvie, Thurston Wheelis, Aunt Pearl Burris, Reverend Spikes, Vera Carp, Petey Fisk and the Bumiller family — when I saw Sears and Williams in the original Greater Tuna in Greenwich Village in 1982. If you had a Texas driver's license, you got in for $5, so I kept returning, taking as many Texans as I could find who needed some belly laughs and reminders of why we'd migrated to NYC after college.
New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow panned Greater Tuna back then, calling it an "insufferable evening of small-town chatter." Gussow died in 2005. Sears and Williams are still doing their shows, though, as they have for three decades, playing to big, appreciative crowds from here to yonder and back again.
Theater critics come and go. Tuna, Texas, will live forever.