John Glines’ “On Tina Tuna Walk” that opened Thursday night at the Callboard Theatre in West Hollywood sounds like specialty sushi or stir-fried tuna. It is neither. Call it specialty theater. The name refers to one of the walkways in the Pines on Fire Island, an overtly gay community, and the comedy that follows is not “John Loves Mary,” but Michael loves Paul.
Comedy requires complications. These are provided with unbridled zest and campiness by Michael’s friends Eddie (Eddie Cobb), Russell (Scott Allyn) and JJ (Jay Acovone), the only straight guy in the group. In their effort to cure Michael (Gregg Marx) from pining after his dead lover, they set him up with Paul (Michael Hartson), a ringer for the dear departed.
The plot’s twists and turns are seriocomic soap opera, less important than the mix of printable and unprintable--often zinging--one-liners on which they rely. Glines has a generous heart and knows how to put a play together. In Eddie, the mother superior who runs the show and rules the roost (variously outfitted as Lady Bracknell, Tokyo Rose or whatever else), he captures the epitome of the pushy-hilarious queen.
Cobb, who inspired as well as created the role Off Broadway, gives an unfettered, outre performance worth the price of admission. He is ably supported by everyone else and except for a couple of brief sags in the second act, director Peter Pope (who staged “Torch Song Trilogy” on Broadway, produced by Glines) knows how to balance restraint and excess and keep the comic tempo thumping.
The smart set, costumes and lights (by Matthew Moore, Ina Raye and George Gizienski, respectively), give a lift to the Callboard stage.
“On Tina Tuna Walk” is slight fare, but fun. It won’t be for all markets. It is comedy about and aimed at the gay community for which it’s bound to hold the greatest appeal--and which should keep it running for some time.
At 8451 Melrose Place, Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays 3 and 8 p.m., indefinitely. Tickets: $15; (213) 466-1767.