How tiny is Tuna, Texas?
Well, Tuna is so small that the insufferable cheerleader Connie Carp can win an essay contest with "Human Rights: Why Bother?" (The runner-up: "The Other Side of Bigotry.") It's so small, the Smut Snatchers squad is sharpening its scissors to go after the dictionary. Nuclear accidents and the next world war may rage on in the outside world, but in Tuna, proud to be the third smallest town in Texas, folks are more concerned with their own impossibly changeable weather.
Tuna, where "your business is everybody's business," is the fictitious setting of "Greater Tuna," a wacky little comedy as tangy as Texas barbecue, making a return visit to Washington at Ford's Theater. Ford's is somewhat less intimate than the Terrace Theater, where the show played just last summer, and the hall swallows some of the deeply drawled lines. But the team of Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, playwrights and actors, is as nimble as ever and just liable to put Tuna on the map.
What we have here are two rather eccentric character actors, who, instead of waiting around for roles to roll in, sat down and wrote themselves a show. And they didn't settle for just a stingy little two-character job, either. "Greater Tuna" is a thickly populated hive buzzing with gossip and rattling with skeletons.
Like Lily Tomlin, Williams and Sears have a trunkful of people with pasts, a macabre touch and a wonderfully sick sense of humor, mining the rich field of country epithets and colloquialisms. And, like Tomlin, they take every opportunity to take a few sharp pokes at American mores and morals.
Of the pair, the burly Sears creates the most vivid and affectionate portraits -- his Bertha Bumiller, whose patience has sharply defined limits, and persnickety, poodle-poisoning Aun Pearl are startlingly real. The waspish Williams plays his stable closer to caricature, but the two acting styles achieve a pleasant compatibility.
"Greater Tuna" is so deft and funny it makes you wish Sears and Williams would take a breather from the road and write the second chapter. GREATER TUNA -- At Ford's Theatre through November 11.