Red, White and Tuna All Over

It's the Fourth of July in the small town of Tuna, Texas. UFOs have been sighted. Members of the religious Right are rewriting church hymns to make them more closely align with their beliefs. The militia for a "Free White Texas" is being held hostage by a woman they've kidnapped. The townswomen are aggressively competing to be crowned Tuna High School Reunion Queen. Somebody's ripe potato salad is sending people running to the john, and it's "hotter than a gnat's snatch on the equator."

Welcome to the Texan town made semifamous by the two-man team of Joe Sears and Jaston Williams. A carefully crafted gem of a sequel to Greater Tunaand A Tuna Christmas, Red, White and Tuna's colorful dialogue and snappy putdowns are guaranteed to produce a steady stream of laughter. Sears and Williams (who co-wrote the piece along with director Ed Howard) so completely metamorphose into the mind-bogglingly diverse 21 characters (most of them women decked out in Linda Fisher's gaudy polyester costumes) that you'll swear they have clones backstage. Dressers Corby Jackson and Karen Jones ought to join the two actors onstage for curtain call because they work their asses off.

Seeing a man in a dress is nothing special in this day and age. What's invigorating here is that Sears and Williams breathe extraordinary life into their creations: under Howard's nimble direction, potential caricatures become full-blooded, living men and women with rich inner lives. To top it off, the humor is never mean-spirited or ugly, even when you would expect the situation or character to call for harsh treatment. Sears, Williams and Howard are above that, consummately chiding ignorance and small-mindedness without ever falling prey to it themselves.

Red, White and Tuna at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 12900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (714) 994-6150. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Through Feb. 13. $34.

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