News Column

2 men portray 20 characters in 'Greater Tuna' starting Aug. 1 in Prosser

July 17, 2014

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

July 17--Greater Tuna is a comedy about small-town America involving the antics of two guys portraying 20 characters, including a dog.

The Valley Theater Company presents this hilarious play Aug. 1-2, 8-9 at the Princess Theatre in Prosser. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m.

To make this comedy click, it takes two actors who are simpatico.

Those guys are Jack Mariotti and Brad Smith, both of Grandview.

"What I like best about performing in Greater Tuna is playing opposite my costar Brad," Mariotti said. "We performed together in The Foreigner and had a great time playing off each other."

And though guys dressing up like women is an image that makes most people laugh, it was a challenge creating 10 distinct voices for each of their characters, he said.

"I'm not sure at this point who my favorite character is," Mariotti said. "I do like the Arles Struvie character; his voice is the easiest for me. But I also like getting my girl on and playing Vera Carp."

Smith agrees he and Mariotti work together on stage like a well-oiled machine.

"We ask a lot of our audience in using their imagination as we switch from character to character," Smith said. "I get to play two women, seven men and a dog. So far, the dog is the easiest."

Director Richard Reuther of Richland said he was ready to direct something funny for a change.

"My last two projects, Proof and An Enemy of the People for the Richland Players, were heavy," he said. "It was time to do something light. Tuna makes us look at ourselves in a humorous way rather than all serious."

Greater Tuna is the first in a series of comedies written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard that take place in the small Texas town of Tuna. The other three are A Tuna Christmas, Red/White and Tuna and Tuna Does Vegas.

Greater Tuna premiered in the early '80s, but Barbara Warriner, the show's producer, says it still addresses pertinent societal issues.

"Audiences will be surprised at how the social issues satirized in this play are still relevant today," she said. "The play addresses very universal ideas about families and issues such as prejudice."

It was so popular in the '80s that Williams and Sears performed Greater Tuna and A Tuna Christmas for President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush at the White House.

Before the curtain goes up in Prosser, the theater company offers a wine tasting starting at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors, which are available at the box office. The Princess Theater is on Meade Avenue in downtown Prosser.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;; Twitter: @dorioneal


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Source: Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, WA)

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