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A BOOKS & THE CULTURE Home Again in Texas How Greater Tuna Conquered the World BY MICHAEL KING RED, WHITE AND TUNA. By Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. Directed by Ed Howard. Jones Hall, Houston. October 20-25. IThe current porno-political conflagration in Washington, D.C. should hold no mysteries for Texans -we’ve seen all this before. No,’ I don’t mean in Austin, although good ol’ boys from Sam Houston to LBJ to Bob Bullock to Drew Nixon \(now there’s a might well recognize themselves in the hysterical festivities now preoccupying the Congress. No, I’m thinking of the Lone Star literary tradition, that storied land of Larry L. King’s Chicken Ranch, and more specifically, of the small-town Texas world of Greater Tuna, the quasi-mythical Lone Star looney-bin where hypocrisy is as close as a high-school microphone, sex is grimly necessary but otherwise unspeakable, and freedom’s . just another word the Smut Snatchers would like to get out of the dictionary. The little town that time abandoned has returned to Texas stages this year in Red, White and Tuna, third in the comic trilogy by actors Jaston Williams and Joe Sears and director Ed Howard. The “Totally Texas” tour opened last spring in Galveston, has been playing around the state, and will close this month in Houston, with plans for Washington and New York next year. In light of our continuing national multiring circus, anybody out there still inclined to take Ken Starr seriously should immediately prescribe themselves a good dose of Tuna’s Vera Carp. In this new, Fourth of July installment, the preposterously righteous Vera \(only one, of Williams’ and the Smut Snatchers in action once again, this time in the form of a “Prayer Posse,” eagerly rewriting traditional church hymns suspiciously tainted with liberal notions like inclusiveness and forgiveness. The closest thing to Bill Clinton in Tuna, I suppose, is the hapless mayor, Leonard Childers, who can’t even get himself taken hostage properly. \(The local militia captures his wife Reba instead, a mistake they claim to one “liberal”: the redoubtable only member of the local SPCA, who periodically attempts, mostly in vain, to persuade his neighbors to be kind to armadillos, scorpions, and other living things. It’s a difficult battle in Tuna, where the motto of Didi Snavely’s Used Guns is, “If we can’t kill it, it’s immortal.” The Tuna plays are essentially rapid-fire sketch comedy, driven by the marvelously quick-change portrayals of Williams and Sears, each playing a dozen or more characters who drop in and out of the room as quickly and mysteriously as Clark Kent. \(This installment provides a bad batch of potato salad at the Fourth of July picnic as the handy device for so many trips to the steadily developed from their early-eighties Austin beginnings as ephemeral scraps of bigotry and parochialism, the Tuna world ‘has taken on a modicum of plot. In Red, White and Tuna, we are made to wonder who’ll be elected the town’s Homecoming Reunion Queen \(Aunt Pearl, Vera, or not bad-seed Stanley can stay out of jail or get out of Dodge. And a couple of new characters Amber Windchime and Star Birdfeather, formerly Fern and Bernice return from the New Age wilds of Lubbock to try to come to terms with their Tuna roots \(as well as Helen & Inita’s potato mileage out of these thin strands to weave a Fourth of July portrait out of their tiny universe, and manage to make the town stand for much of the entire spectrum of American lunacy. “We try, in a humorous way, to 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 9, 1998