Greater Tuna

The Brown County Playhouse is wrapping up their summer season with the skit comedy "Greater Tuna" based on the party pieces of Ed Howard, Joe Sears and Jaston Williams. Unlike Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone, the women of Tuna, Texas, though spirited are not exactly strong, the men while manly enough are far from good looking and the children…well let’s simply say that they aspire to reach the heights of average.

Sam Wooten and Bill Simmons play twenty characters from Tuna in a fast moving show directed by Murray McGibbon. Fred Duer’s Set design looks like a poster with a kitchen to one side and a living room to the other. Mary Grusak’s costumes look terrific and must be miracles of Velcro for the speed with which the two actors change them.

Wooten and Simmons first appear as a couple of local, very local, morning radio hosts on OKKK. Morning news on OKKK focuses on the local issues at about the level of gossip. Their international news tends to come in brief, intense capsules. One example was "Peace fails, war breaks out." A National item mentioned a disaster covering seven unnamed states. Only later did they add that Texas was not one of them. A regular sponsor of their show was Wooten as Didi of Didi’s Used Weapons. Didi’s motto is that if her weapons won’t kill something, it has to be immortal.

Both Wooten and Simmons get quite a workout as the interlocking scenes of "Greater Tuna" go quickly by. Wooten plays all three of the Bumiller children including the dog loving, simple Little Jody, his juvenile delinquent brother Stanley and their failed cheerleader and aspiring poet sister Charlene. It’s left to Simmons to preside as their mother, the much put upon Bertha Bumiller.

One the audience’s clear favorites among the notables of "Greater Tuna" was Wooten’s Petey Fisk, the hapless animal protection agent. Petey is also the personal possessor of twenty-four dog an unnumberable amount of cats and the beginnings of a flock of displaced ducks. However, how could I not have a warm spot for the dog poisoning Aunt Pearl Burras played by Simmons. Aunt Pearl is a woman who says that she doesn’t sleep comfortably unless there is strychnine in the house. And of course my hat is off to the durable weather man Wooten’s Harold Dean Lattimer as he forecast a day of sunshine interrupted only by a severe dust storm, possible tornadoes and the likelihood of swarms of locusts.

All in all, "Greater Tuna" seems to have more offbeat characters per square inch than a town ought to have, but Saturday night’s audience seemed grateful for each and every one of them.

Performances of "Greater Tuna" at the Brown County Playhouse continue Fridays and Saturdays at eight and Sundays at three through October 22nd.

George Walker

George Walker was born in Winchester, Virginia, and raised in Owl’s Head, Maine, and Valhalla, New York. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he came to Bloomington in 1966 and completed an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University. George began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Currently, along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists in a wide variety of areas and reviews plays and operas. He’s the proud father of grown sons Ben Walker (and his wife Elise Katzif Walker) and Aaron Walker. In his time away from WFIU, George enjoys an active life with wife Carolyn Lipson-Walker, singing, reading, exercising and playing guitar.

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