Aunt Pearl Burras (Joe Sears, left) and Anna Conda (Jaston Williams) are just two zany characters who show up in "Tuna Does Vegas."
Courtesy Photo

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas - unless the 'Tuna' folks hear about it

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

Oct. 8, 2008 - Bertha Bumiller and her husband, Arles Struvie, are about to celebrate their 10th anniversary. In order to have some time alone, the couple decide to travel from their hometown of Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas, to Las Vegas in order to renew their wedding vows.

On paper, the trip is a good idea. Bertha has borrowed a swim suit from her Aunt Pearl and plans to spend some time at the hotel pool. Arles, a disc jocky at OKKK, has worked out a deal with his boss to be off for a few days. So far, so good.

Bertha and Arles' get-away dreams begin to unravel when Arles announces their travel plans on OKKK's early morning radio show. Suddenly, everyone in Tuna develops an urge to head to Sin City.

The confusion and chaos that follow Bertha and Arles to Vegas provides the storyline for "Tuna Does Vegas," the new play by Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, the men who created "Greater Tuna" in the 1980s. The comedy just completed a three-day sell-out run at the historic Perot Theater in Texarkana.

The two men play all 22 parts, going through dozens of costume changes. Their backstage managers must be incredibly fast or drink a lot of caffiene.

Aunt Pearl decides to fly to Vegas for the festivities because it's bad luck for her to miss a family event. The last time she failed to show up, the bride's hair fell out.

Vera Carp, who lives to ban bad words, heads west because she's run out of things to abolish in Tuna, and she's aware of how much sin is just waiting to be stamped out there in the desert.

Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd, waitresses at the Tasty Freeze, need to get out of town for a few days. Inita heard there was a rodeo in Vegas - and where there is a rodeo, there are cowboys, Inita's favorite hobby.

Helen's sworn off men, but agrees with Inita that a change of scenery would do them both a world of good.

Trouble is, Helen doesn't like to fly. So, she, Inita and Joe Bob Lipsey, Tuna's little theater director, take off for what turns out to be a three-day trip, filled with flat tires, broken fan belts and rattlesnakes. (There are only two actors playing three roles on the trek, so the girls send Joe Bob off to find a place to stay as they relive their hair-raising adventures.)

Everyone lands at the Hula Chateau, a run-down hotel on the strip managed by Anna Conda, who could be Carol Channing's long-lost second cousin, twice removed. Even Elvis makes an appearance, providing some of the play's lightest moments.

On Sunday afternoon, the action didn't seem to transition as smoothly as in previous plays and the guys stumbled over some lines. The play doesn't offer up as many belly laughs as "Greater Tuna," "Red, White and Tuna" or "A Tuna Christmas," but an afternoon spent with the quirky, slightly twisted residents of this small town is never wasted.

The Tuna guys are set to perform later this month at Bass Hall in Fort Worth. For a complete tour schedule, check out the website: http://www.tunadoesvegasthetour.com/route.htm

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