Flower Mound’s Wiser & Deeper Tuna: Review 6.3.2009

 CHARLES RYAN ROACH 1969 — 2013  Thanks for the memories, man.

If there is truly no rest for the wicked, Rabin and Column award-winning stage director/actor Chris Robinson must be a very naughty boy. He just completed directing the delightful 60’s bedroom farce Under the Yum Yum Tree for Grapevine’s Runway Theatre (running through June 7). Now he’s appearing in the two-actor multiple character comic marathon Greater Tuna at Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre. Did I mention he co-directed this Tuna production as well? Somebody give this man an award for creative endurance. Talk about living for art.

If you know the play Greater Tuna, it feels comfy as a favorite pair of dusty old cowboy boots. It’s been around the pasture and back, national and internationally speaking; but it’s always a welcome experience. If you aren’t familiar with the show, you’re in for a real treat as you encounter the homespun humor and wisdom of the nineteen denizens of the “third smallest town” in Texas, the fictional Tuna.

In some Greater Tuna productions, the director chooses to emphasize the farcical comedy of the piece with much shtick and gimmickry, dazzling the audience with the speed of costume and character transitions and the campy-ness of portrayals. FMPAT’s is a different sort of Greater Tuna, a wiser and deeper, thoughtfully paced, even reflective, production. Restaged as it is by Chris Robinson and Ryan Roach, with assistance from executive producer Scott Kirkham, this Greater Tuna maintains the humor and madcap pacing but allows the humanity to shine through. What gives this play the universal appeal it has isn’t just its comedy, it’s the deeply felt emotion that underscore the actions and motivations of its loony but believable characters. It’s better appreciated if the laughs just happen as the characters reveal their vulnerabilities and greatest desires. In accomplishing this feat FMPAT scores a genuine winner. Actors Robinson and Roach bring a depth, skill level and obvious joy to their performances that attest to their distinctive professionalism and dedication to performance art.

About Chris Robinson: He recently gave a Column Award winning performance as Natalie Green in Uptown Player’s acclaimed extended production The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode and reprised his role for a special engagement on RSVP Vacation Cruises. Chris has performed in the DFW theater community for over nineteen years, as well as at several regional theaters across the country. Chris has been seen locally at: Uptown Players, Stage West, Runway Theater, Garland Summer Musicals, Oklahoma’s Lyric Theater, and Garland Civic Theater: Chris has also appeared as Al Deluca in three productions of A Chorus Line. In addition to performing, Chris also directs, choreographs, and designs multi-media for many theater companies in DFW. A Rabin and multiple Column Award winner, Chris serves on the board of directors for The Column Awards and produces the multi-media for the ceremony each year.
About Ryan Roach: Charles Ryan Roach makes his FMPAT debut with Greater Tuna.  Ryan has performed throughout the DFW area, most recently as Lycus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum for WaterTower Theatre, where he has also appeared in Parade and Urinetown: The Musical. Roach’s diverse, encompassing work has received wide acclaim at Theatre Three, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, Lyric Stage, Theatre Arlington, Stage West, Uptown Players, and Shakespeare Dallas. Roach has served on the Board of Directors for The Column Awards since its inception, and is a graduate of The University of North Texas and The British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer at Oxford program.

Greater Tuna encompasses the interactions of the town’s nineteen residents, ranging from the macho town sheriff to a sulky teenaged girl and her murderous thug brother to the town’s leading matron, its pompous reverend, and the wide-eyed president of the local humane society. All explore aspects of life againstthe backdrop filter of the town’s local radio station, through the perceptions of its radio DJ duo Thurston and Arles. Robinson and Roach create vivid, memorable portrayals and move smoothly through the myriad transitions. Can’t review Greater Tuna without a shout out to its intrepid costume designer, FMPAT’s Ryan Matthieu Smith. Not a hair out of place, every ensemble and funky wig supports both actors in the clear creation of all characters. Smith has designed for many theaters in the Metroplex and has received both Column Awards and Critics Forum Awards for his work. Ryan lives in Los Angeles where he has styled for Rachel Zoe, fashion designer George Clinton, and worked with renowned photographers such as Gilles Bensimon and David Lachapelle.  Ryan is also the artistic Director of The Wit Gallery in Dallas. He is currently producing two reality television shows and recently completed the screenplay for The Beautiful People.
Characters, in order of appearance-
Charles Ryan Roach:
Thurston Wheelis
Elmer Watkins
Bertha Bumiller
Leonard Childers
Pearl Burras
R.R. Snavely
Reverand Spikes
Sheriff Givens
Hank Bumiller
Chris Robinson:
Arles Struvie
Didi Snavely
Harold Dean Lattimer
Petey Fisk
Jody Bumiller
Stanley Bumiller
Charlene Bumiller
Chad Hartford
Phinas Blye
Vera Carp

Head down to Greater Tuna for a dose of impeccably timed comedy and the gentle revelation of universal human truth.  The show runs through June 7 at the cosy FMPAT performance space at 830 Parker Square in Flower Mound, just west of Lewisville on FM 1171.
Tickets: http://www.fmpat.org 972-724-2147
Make it an entire evening. Dine ahead of time at one of the finer Parker Square restaurants: http://www.parkersquare.com

Bios excerpted from the FMPAT Greater Tuna show program.

Greater Tuna is written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard

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