July 25 2012 12:00 AM

Two actors play a whole town in Williamston's dazzling 'Red, White & Tuna'


The Williamston Theatre’s production of “Red, White & Tuna” is a tasty treat, from the quaint and cute stage to the toe-tapping music to the phenomenal acting.

“Red, White & Tuna” is another in the “Tuna” series about life in a tiny Texas town. Williamston produced the first in the series, “Greater Tuna,” last year, and will conclude the trilogy next season with “Tuna Does Vegas.” 

In this case, as with last year’s “Greater Tuna,” that cast is Aral Gribble and Wayne David Parker. While director John Lepard is plenty skilled and accomplished, working with Gribble and Parker must make his job easy. In addition to already having developed many of the characters, they are also fleet-footed in switching among characters, creating and maintaining unique physicality for each one.

This “Tuna” takes place around the Fourth of July, as the town prepares not only for the festivities, but also for a high school reunion and the nuptials of Bertha Bumiller (Parker) and Arles Struvie (Gribble). Key plot points involve UFOs, tainted potato salad, spray-painted road kill, the sexual habits of senior citizens, and the election of a reunion queen. Anything more specific would lead to spoilers, and finding out which way the Tuna casserole bubbles is half the fun.

Parker’s crowning moment is playing director Joe Bob Lipsey, a small-town Texas version of Harvey Fierstein. Lipsey’s latest musical production is shut down by the local Smut-Snatchers chapter, sending him into a melodramatic suicidal funk. Judging by audience reaction, Gribble’s most popular character is Helen Bedd, mostly because of the belly-baring costume. He is most charming as disc jockey Arles Struvie, and most repugnant as hypocritical Christian and Smut-Snatcher Vera Jenkins, who bans a book based on the number of times the word “poke” is used.

In this play, timing is everything. The actors take leave from one door, only to re-emerge seconds later from another as a new character in a different costume. While the costumes are fairly simple, the speed at which they accomplish this makes one wonder whether the backstage areas of the theatre is riddled with cosmic wormholes. Another possibility is that the backstage crew of Sarah Bence and Emily Young is just that good.

As they might say in Tuna, this production is slicker than snot. 

‘Red, White & Tuna’

Williamston Theatre

122 S. Putnam St., Williamston

through Sunday, Aug. 19

8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; 3 p.m. July 28, Aug. 4, 11 and 18.

$20 Thursdays; $25 Fridays and Saturday evenings; $22 Saturday matinees and Sundays; $10 students with ID; $2 off any show for seniors 65 and over

(517) 655-7469