‘Tuna Does Vegas’ in Blowing Rock

By Makenzie Holland (makenzie.holland@mountaintimes.com)



Article Published: Jun. 19 | Modified: Jun. 30
‘Tuna Does Vegas’ in Blowing Rock

From right, Mark Woodard, acting as Arles Struvie, and Moore, acting as Bertha Struvie, are the characters from Tuna, Texas, that start the action in ‘Tuna Does Vegas.’ Moore and Woodard act out more than 15 different characters in the comedy.
Photos by Makenzie Holland



What better way to escape the constricting air of small-town life than a trip to Sin City?

That is what residents of the fictional town, Tuna, the “third-smallest” town in Texas, are about to find out in Ensemble Stage’s upcoming production, “Tuna Does Vegas.”

Running from June 21 to 29, “Tuna Does Vegas” is a comedy that plays on both the traditional comedic side and the non.

The play starts off when Tuna resident and local radio host Arles Struvie announces over the radio that he and wife Bertha Struvie are planning to head to Las Vegas to renew their wedding vows.
They don’t go alone.

In one way or another, artistic director Gary Smith said, the whole town goes with them.

Setting this play apart from a more traditional scene, only two actors will be performing the roles of Tuna residents, wild Vegas characters, men, women and whoever is involved.

Mark Woodard and Stephen Moore plan on keeping audiences laughing with their take on the characters.

“I think probably my favorite character would be a character called Joe Bob,” Moore said. “He’s the artistic director of the Tuna Theater.”

Moore laughed and said the character is “very flamboyant.”

“He’s just, not to give too much away, but he’s on a particular diet, that’s the biggest thing you see in one scene, where he comes into this diner and he’s on a diet and it’s the manner in which he’s forcing himself to order food; it’s just out there and kind of crazy,” Moore said.

Though this is the first time Ensemble Stage has produced “Tuna Does Vegas,” Moore has performed in the play before, as well as “Red, White and Tuna,” another entry in the popular “Tuna” series. “Tuna Does Vegas” is the last of a four-part series, written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard.

This play, as well as the series, Smith said, provides an endearing yet satirical look at small-town life.
“One of the things I appreciate, and I’m not from a small town, but this is one of those plays where there’s somebody in there that you go, ‘Oh, that reminds me of such and such,’” Smith said. “It isn’t quite stereotyped, but it certainly runs that edge with some of these characters. Which makes it so much more fun.”

Smith said he has really enjoyed watching Moore and Woodard breathe a different, hilarious life into each character they portray.

“There’s no dead air, it’s very fast paced, and it’s a lot of fun to watch these two guys work,” Smith said.

Smith said the women in the play are some of the ugliest he’s ever seen, as they are all portrayed by Moore and Woodard, but that is only one of several aspects that make the play funny.

“Neither one of them make very pretty women, so the toss-up is who is the ugliest,” Smith laughed. “It’s very funny; they do a great job.”

Woodard will be portraying 10 different characters — four men and six women — and said he’s never done anything quite like it. Crafting the characters from Tuna into unique individuals was a challenge for Woodard, and the offstage intensity has proven to be quite different compared to more traditional plays.

“Usually in a show, when you step offstage, it’s time to relax, breathe, take a sip of water, think about what’s next,” Woodard said. “We don’t get that kind of repose in this play at all. In fact, when we come offstage, we kick it into high gear, and we’re actually getting ready for the next thing. It’s completely backwards in that sense; it’s actually a relief when we’re back onstage.”

Though several challenges exist, Woodard said the play overall is “just fun.”

“It’s not heavy-handed or harsh at all,” Woodard said. “It’s just good fun, it’s satirical in a way that people will have that laugh of recognition. Especially anybody who is from a small town, they’re going to recognize these archetypes of people that they know.”

Show times for “Tuna Does Vegas” are 7:30 p.m. June 21, 23, 24, 27 and 28 and 2 p.m. June 22 and 29. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit http://www.ensemblestage.com. All performances will take place at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium, located 160 Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock.

Additional Images

From right, Mark Woodard, acting as Arles Struvie, and Moore, acting as Bertha Struvie, are the characters from Tuna, Texas, that start the action in ‘Tuna Does Vegas.’ Moore and Woodard act out more than 15 different characters in the comedy.
Photos by Makenzie Holland

From left, Stephen Moore plays Shot, a security guard in a Las Vegas hotel, while Mark Woodard plays Wo-Hu, an acupuncturist, in Ensemble Stage’s production of ‘Tuna Does Vegas.’

From right, Mark Woodard and Stephen Moore act as diner girls Helen and Inita in Ensemble Stage’s production of the comedy, ‘Tuna Does Vegas.’

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