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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Greater Tuna Returns
With Its Original Stars

Also see Richard's review of South Pacific

Original stars Joe Sears and Jaston Williams have brought Greater Tuna back to the Curran Theatre for the 20th anniversary of this hilarious hit comedy set in the third smallest town in Texas. Tuna is a town where the Lions Club is too liberal and Pasty Cline will never die. The parodies of its citizens have been presented in almost every city in America by regional companies. Audiences just can’t resist the array of characters these two wonderful actors present, including family wise Bertha and Hank Bumiller and their children Charlene, Stanley and little Jody. Bertha is the town censor who is out to ban books like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (because the teenagers have sex) and Roots (which “shows only one side of the slavery issue”). Charlene is upset because she was not made a cheerleader at her high school, and this is a big thing in Texas. Stanley is just out of reform school, but he certainly has not reformed. Little Jody is a magnet for every stray dog in town.

Other charcters Sears and Williams portray include the Reverend Spikes who would make a born again Christian look liberal and says everyone is invited to his church, including the Catholics. There is Pearl Burras, a dog killing little old lady who raises chickens and makes pills containing strychnine for “those egg sucking” pooches. Petey Fisk of the Humane Society is a person who wants to find homes for all four legged creatures, and his favorite line is, “It’s tough being a duck.” We can’t forget pistol peddlin' Didi Snaveley who owns and operates a used gun and ammo store. Didi's motto is “If Didi’s cain’t kills it, it's immortal.”

Tuna takes place within a span of 24 hours. It starts at radio station OKKK with regular DJs Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie who remind me of the old radio series pair Lum 'n' Abner. They have a weatherman named Harold Dean Lattimer who stands out in a field every morning to see if clouds are coming toward the little hamlet. There is also a call-in program headed by Leonard Childers, a real windbag if there ever was one.

Joe Bob Lipsey is the “artistic director” of the Tuna Little Players. He explains to the radio audience that they will be presenting My Fair Lady; however, due to a very limited income they cannot afford sets for the production. The theater company will be using the sets from last year's production which was South Pacific. As a result, they are calling this My Fair Lady in Polynesia.

Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, these two superb actors who play 10 characters apiece, are especially marvelous in the women's roles. Jaston Williams as Vera Carp has the audience roaring without even a word spoken as she dozes off during Sears’ Reverend Sparks' delivering a eulogy with a long string of clichés.

Greater Tuna does not have one dull moment as the amazing actors change clothes behind a prairie scene flap located in the center of the stage. All of this is performed with split second timing (and no wonder since the two artists have logged in over 4000 performances).

Greater Tuna runs through August 4 at the Curran Theater. For tickets call Ticketmaster at 415-512-7770. You can log onto bestofbroadway-sf.com for more information.

Opening next at the Curran will be The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife with the recent Broadway cast of Valerie Harper, Tony Roberts and Michele Lee. It opens on August 13.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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