The boys are back in town. Also the girls they play so well. And with some brand-new jokes and outfits. "Red, White and Tuna," which opened last night at the Kennedy Center, is the third of the "Tuna Trilogy" ("Greater Tuna," "A Tuna Christmas"), but even though the show is new, the audience will not find itself pining for Tunas gone by: "I don't like the look of this," says one character, returning to the town after a long absence, and when another asks, "Why? Has it changed?" the reply is "No."
Audiences undoubtedly will like the look of "Red, White and Tuna." Also the sound of it. Also just the general genial nutty spirit. As always, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, who wrote the script with director Ed Howard, play all the roles.
These include the long-suffering Bertha Bumiller (Sears), who may at last find happiness with deejay Arles Struvie (Williams), as well as the one-man humane society Petey Fisk (who reminds us to sympathize with centipedes because they "are always on their feet"), pregnant and complaining Charlene Bumiller (Williams) and dog-hating Pearl Burras (Sears).
Vera Carp (Williams) still schemes to be social queen of Tuna. Didi Snavely (Williams) still dresses in plastic because it's easy to clean, and she still manages Didi's Used Weapons. Didi's husband, R.R., was taken away by a UFO 1,999 days ago, and she's hoping he won't return. High-strung theater auteur Joe Bob Lipsey (Sears) has had another hit with "Mother's Boy," a musical based on the Oedipus story, and former delinquent Stanley Bumiller (Williams) has found his artistic calling spray-painting dead animals and selling them for thousands to rich, arty types in Santa Fe.
Among the new characters are the stuck-in-the-'60s Amber Windchime, who used to be called Fern (Williams), and Star Birdfeather, formerly Berenice (Williams). Then there's the Rev. Sturgis Spikes, who is always a little skittish just after he gets out of jail. Rev. Spikes is teamed up with the Tuna Smut Snatchers, a vigilant moral watchdog group that managed to cancel Joe Bob Lipsey's latest show on the grounds that the song "I Get a Kick Out of You" contains a reference to champagne.
Oh yes. There's also an alien.
It's been nine years since "A Tuna Christmas" debuted, but you don't feel the gap. Sears and Williams pick up right where they left off. This installment's tone is slightly more poignant than that of the earlier ones, even a shade elegiac, with lovers finding each other and settling down: Tuna at sunset.
Linda Fisher's costumes are as much of a hoot as ever. Sears gets to wear not one but two resplendent chenille robes and also sport a Statue of Liberty crown. Williams shows off his legs in a variety of short skirts and fancy shoes. By now, these two are beyond criticism: They simply, wonderfully, exist.
Red, White and Tuna, by Ed Howard, Joe Sears and Jaston Williams. Set, Kevin Rupnik; lights, Root Choyce; sound, Ken Huncovsky. At the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater through June 20. Call 202-467-4600.
CAPTION: Name that Tunan: Joe Sears, left, and Jaston Williams in two of their many incarnations in "Red, White and Tuna," now at the Kennedy Center.