Stagebeat

This satire on life in America's heartland may be suggestive of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, but it's a sure bet its authors weren't thinking of the poet when they created it. Greater Tuna began in 1982 as an impromptu party skit but ended up being one of the most popular stage plays in history. It's still going strong and is now enjoying an uproarious production at the Mosaic Theater in Plantation.

Set in rural Tuna, Texas (the state's third-smallest town), the fast-paced comedy presents a score of eccentric citizens, all of them -- men and women -- deftly portrayed by actors Tom Wahl and Ian Hersey, who change characters and costumes at the speed of thought. We have Bertha Bumiller's ironic defense of her dysfunctional family's values, Vera Carp's conviction that her faith is a panacea for a lack of intimacy, Elmer Watkins's disdain for sharecroppers, and the compassion of Petey Fisk, whose love for all creatures great and small represents the town's altruism.

Hersey and Wahl's masterful performances make the rapid-fire show an amazing feat to witness. The infinite variety of their vocal characterizations and their potent physicality are quite an accomplishment in a play that requires its two actors to find the right balance between over-the-top zaniness and scathing sarcasm. Despite Greater Tuna's poke at small-town conservatism, especially of the Texas variety, the first Bush administration twice brought the show to the White House for command performances. Reviving it now, during the second Bush administration, seems appropriate and relevant during this political season that pits conservatives of the Texas variety against liberals of the East Coast persuasion. (Through April 4. Mosaic Theater at the American Heritage Fine Arts Center, 12200 W Broward Blvd, Bldg 3000, Plantation; 954-577-8243.) -- Cristina Rich

 
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