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‘Tuna Does Vegas’ a zany marriage of corn pone in Sin City

Jaston Williams (left) and Joe Sears take their entire cast of zany characters on the road to Nevada in "Tuna Does Vegas."

Jaston Williams (left) and Joe Sears take their entire cast of zany characters on the road to Nevada in "Tuna Does Vegas."

Those wacky west Texas folks from Greater Tuna, proud to be known as the “third smallest town” in the Lone Star State, are getting out of town.

For the first time since this trilogy to rural life became a four-part series, fans will get to watch as “Tuna Does Vegas.” The nationally touring production opens Tuesday for a week of shows in the downtown Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St..

Think of the Beverly Hillbillies without all that oil money. Think of Greater Tuna’s own Vera Carp with her tight-jawed Christian values, convinced those Sodomites of Gomorrah are discovering new naughty words in Las Vegas. As a card-carrying member of Smut Snatchers of the New Order, it is her god-given duty to see these new words are banned as soon as possible.

“Gomorrah is what she calls Las Vegas,” says Joe Sears, on the phone with a smile in his voice.

Maybe that name Gomorrah has the weight of the Old Testament behind it, but Sin City would have been easier to spell. Even so, Sears co-created the character of Vera and a dozen other dusty eccentrics, working with Jaston Williams and Ed Howard. Sears and Williams also do all the acting. Howard directs.

Back around 1980, these three pals living in Austin, were creating a string of skits using corn pone humor to satirize political issues of the day. Right-wing religious groups were in the news a lot. But then it turned out that one of the most popular characters was Petey Fisk, a worried soul determined to prevent cruelty to all animals.

“Greater Tuna” was the right show at the right time, and its popularity soared in regional theater. Sears, Williams and Howard followed up |with “A Tuna Christmas” in 1989, then the Independence Day-based “Red, White and Tuna” in 1998. This rednecked Tuna Trilogy was keeping the three lads busier than a hound dog in a rabbit pen.

Back in 1995, “A Tuna Christmas” even enjoyed a box-office-smashing, Tony Award-nominated, run on Broadway. As always, Sears and Williams played all the roles, male and female, becoming remarkable quick-change artists in the process.

“We are professionally trained character actors who are keen observers of humanity,” Sears explains proudly.

For the last couple of years, this team has been developing “Tuna Does Vegas” on the road. The show’s premise is that Bertha Bumiller, with a closet full of polyester pantsuits, and Arles Struvie, her conservative radio talk show host husband, have decided to renew their marriage vows with a meaningful ceremony in Las Vegas. Suddenly all those beloved Greater Tuna residents find reasons they should go to Las Vegas, as well, at exactly the same time.



What: Broadway in Tucson presents “Tuna Does Vegas” with the original cast of Joe Sears and Jaston Williams

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.

Price: $25-$50

Info: 903-2929, www.broadwayintucson.com

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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