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It’s a regular redneck riot when ‘Tuna Does Vegas’

Those amusing redneck residents of Tuna, Texas, return in Interplayers Professional Theatre’s chuckle-worthy production of “Tuna Does Vegas.”

The fourth play in the Tuna series by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard features familiar characters as well as some new ones, all played adeptly by Patrick Treadway and Michael Weaver. Weaver, who had been artistic director of the former Artists’ Repertory Theatre here, returns to the Spokane stage just to perform in this satire of southern-American culture.

The show, directed by William C. Marlowe, has plenty of laughs as we follow the characters from tiny Tuna to the bright lights of Sin City. Arles Struvie (Treadway) and his wife, Bertha (Weaver), plan to take a vacation and renew their wedding vows in Las Vegas, but their plan is hindered when other townsfolk follow.

Treadway and Weaver are well matched, as Weaver’s larger-than-life characterizations are countered by Treadway’s deadpan delivery.

Weaver is delightfully angry as macho, mustachioed Leonard Childers and wonderfully crotchety as the elderly Aunt Pearl Burras. Highlights of his physical comedy include Aunt Pearl’s debilitated disco dance and her sustained conniption fit. As play director Joe Bob Lipsey Shot, he constantly strikes dramatic poses. At one point, Weaver even barks up a hilarious dogfight.

Treadway plays, with biting snootiness, the self-righteous Vera Carp, who “will protect you from all those moderates.” Petey Fisk, in his Coke-bottle glasses and red-and-black checkered flannel shirt and hat, is the most darling. He’s so earnest about his commitment to saving the Las Vegas show tigers, you want to help him. This is contrasted with Treadway’s portrayal of Didi Snaveley, the masculine female secondhand gun store owner. “Don’t just hang up on telemarketers, track them down and shoot them,” she says in her gravelly voice. Even she finds romance in Vegas.

Having two men play a total of 24 characters is an exercise in logistics that depends on an alert stage crew. You know when one character leaves, he will return as someone else. You’re just never quite sure who is going to walk through the door, and that’s a welcome surprise.

Other highlights are a scene with dueling Elvis impersonators, outrageous and tacky costumes by Rebecca Cook, and big wigs by Jeanette Brenner.

The local references are a nice touch. Motel owner Anna Conda (Treadway), on the phone, remembers her visit to “Spo-cane.” Pause. “Then why do they spell it that way?”

But the energy stops between scenes, so the audience must wait for it to start up again, and the pacing seems slow at times. With a destination as big as Las Vegas, one would expect a big, hilarious payoff, but that moment never really materializes.

The Struvies, who are headed to Vegas to renew their vows, are a likable pair, but just as the couple is growing on us, they – and half the town – head to Vegas. But we don’t see the couple again until the end, and we miss them.

Still, as narrow-minded and politically incorrect as Tuna residents are, you can’t help but love – or hate – these amusing characters, who really could be from anywhere.

“Tuna Does Vegas,” reviewed Friday night at Interplayers Professional Theatre, continues through Feb. 11. Call (509) 455-7529 for tickets.

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