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Christopher Myers, left, and Patrick Dokken perform Feb. 9, during a dress rehearsal of The Barn Theatre's production of "Greater Tuna." Both Dokken and Myers portray 10 different characters each in the stage comedy. (Tribune photos by Gary Miller)

'Tuna' is a tasty dish

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showcase Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Tuna is usually something many folks use for a meal when there is nothing left in the cupboard; an afterthought really. It may end up in the form of an uninspired tuna fish sandwich or a blandly presented tuna noodle casserole that never ends up on a plate as a second helping.

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But "Greater Tuna" is an altogether different catch. Thoughts of it will linger in your cerebrum as you recall the sights and sounds of it. You can sit back and enjoy a heaping helping of "Greater Tuna," served up fast-paced and funny at The Barn Theatre.

"Greater Tuna" is an acclaimed small-town satire set in Texas' third smallest town, mythical Tuna. As the down-home melodrama unfolds in the tiny little town with only one stoplight, the local radio station OKKK broadcasts all the latest news, music and information of interest to the locals. There are rednecks, outlaws, in-laws, deadbeats, murderous mavens, bleeding-hearts, wanna-bes, law-abiders, bigots and book-burners. A proper subtitle for this production might be "The Secret Lives of Tunanites" or perhaps "Peytuna Place."

The characters allow for one guilty giggle after another. This play is not about laughing at the antics of one black sheep member of a family, it is about laughing at a whole flock of them. The characters in "Greater Tuna" are rather like psychotic Sybil meets Steve Martin.

Tuna, Texas, also seems to serve as a watering hole for a particular breed of backward ideology. Some folks in town, like the Smut Snatchers, are so excruciatingly conservative that they make Ann Coulter seem like a left-wing liberal. In Tuna, Texas, the notion of being politically correct apparently never made it over the airwaves of radio station OKKK.

Christopher Myers and Patrick Dokken are the entire onstage cast, and it is definitely quality and quantity. The two actors make this kooky little show hum with one goofy character after another. Their yin yang of style on stage will make you constantly wonder "who" or "what" is next. There are more costume changes during "Greater Tuna" than by a teenage girl before the first day of school. Both Dokken and Myers portray no less than 10 different characters during the two-act production.

Christopher Myers' physical comedy is delightful and he is especially appealing when ensconced in curlers and a ratty robe as the firearms peddling Didi Snavely. He also plays Petey Fisk as the whiny yet endearing head of the Greater Tuna Humane Society, and the padded and pouty blond Charlene Bumiller.

Patrick Dokken's characterization of marshmallow-hearted Bertha Bumiller, as the poster child for chemical hair removal, is delightful. Dokken was positively believable as the strychnine wielding Aunt Pearl, with her fresh-baked bitter pills for neighborhood canines. Besides, there are few things quite as rewarding as watching a grown man prance around in drag ... in high heels... and do it well.

If you are angling for a good time this February away from an ice fishing house, set The Barn Theatre as your getaway destination and see "Greater Tuna." You might even catch your limit in laughs.

 Bev Davis Knudsen has reviewed shows for The Barn Theatre in Willmar and the Little Theatre in New London. She has acted and done costuming for the Little Theatre and was a production assistant at the Ridgewater College theater.

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