Albert Azzarra

Albert Azzarra

CAT pins hopes on rednecks

The KKK is meeting in Tuna, Tex., to figure out what to do about those poor squatters living at the edge of town.

The KKK is meeting in Tuna, Tex., to figure out what to do about those poor squatters living at the edge of town.

Concerns were raised about the squatters scaring away wildlife, leaving nothing for the men of Tuna to shoot.

Those who like the redneck comedy of Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy will probably get plenty of chortles from the politically incorrect humour of Greater Tuna, Central Alberta Theatre’s season opener — and important fundraiser.

CAT members are counting on a great audience turnout for this play by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howard, which is on from Sept. 6 at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.

“We are having a financial crunch and we very much need the support of our patrons to help us survive this,” said longtime CAT member Judith Moody, who is directing Greater Tuna.

The second-oldest community theatre group in Canada recently revealed that it is some $700,000 in debt — largely because renovations to City Centre Stage went over budget.

Although the 42-year-old theatre company had a long-term lease on the downtown facility and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating it, the group now can’t afford the monthly lease at City Centre Stage. CAT is instead launching its season at the Memorial Centre, which it has long operated.

Patrons can choose between seeing the play only on Thursday evenings or seeing the comedy and enjoying warm hors d’oeuvres served in the lobby on Friday through Sunday showings, as there’s no space for sit-down dinner theatre.

Moody believes CAT is too much of a Red Deer institution to go away. “I think the public can help us. . . .

“This is such a fun play. . . . You can’t help but laugh, and I honestly think some people will want to see it again — it’s so fascinating.”

The kicker is that only two actors take on more than 20 roles to bring this “third smallest” Texas town to life. The tall order might raise skepticism if not for the fact that Moody has cast a pair of highly seasoned actors and audience favourites in the roles.

Albert Azzara and Curtis Closson, who each take on about 10 eccentric characters, were last seen in the CAT comedy Booster McCrane, P.M. Azzara depicted the deadpan aboriginal minister of everything in the Canadian government and Closson played an out-of-control American renegade who shoots up the prime minister’s office.

Moody admits she gets a giggle each time the strapping Azzara slaps on a wig to portray Aunt Pearl, who lives a life of not-so-quiet desperation in Tuna.

Pearl is driven to put out poison for the “egg-sucking poodles” that routinely disturb her chickens. But after accidentally poisoning her husband’s prized hunting dog, Pearl has to phone an accomplice to help her drag the carcass onto the road so she can run over it to evade detection.

“This has to be Albert’s greatest role,” said Moody.

Among the colourful characters played by Closson is Petey Fisk of Tuna’s humane society. The mild, ever-optimistic Fisk goes on the local station, Radio-0KKK, to talk about the plight of the local duck population and to try to adopt out the Pet-of-the-Week.

Even when the pet is an especially yappy dog that’s been passed over by a multitude of families, Fisk is undeterred. He suggests there must be some deaf person who could provide a good home.

Also heard on local radio is an interview with town snob Vera Carp, who’s working on the Smut Catchers committee to ban certain books from the local library.

On her hit list is Alex Haley’s Roots, “for its one-sided depiction of slavery,” and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, for promoting teen sex.

Greater Tuna, which was given a command performance at the White House for former president George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, “is all goofy fun,” said Moody, who believes there’s a growing audience for redneck humour as a push-back to the increasing political correctness in our society.

She added, “We can see people we know in this” — and also sometimes recognize ourselves. “We think we’re so enlightened, but we all have some subtle prejudices and here they are gently being pushed forward.”

Only after acknowledging the redneck attitudes we may secretly harbour can we can start to rethink some of our views of the world, said Moody.