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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

First of all, I want to wish ASOTA readers a very Happy New Year. I hope 2018 is full of blessings and opportunities for you all!

Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre opens its 45th season with the zany comedy, Greater Tuna. Written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard, the 1981 play is a tribute to attitudes and foibles of small town life in rural America. Set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas – we are introduced to a series of rather broadly conceived characters with an array of problems and outlooks that are ripe for the stage talents of Eddie Curry and Jeff Stockberger (who also directs the show). These two familiar actors play all of the 20 or so eccentric citizens we meet during the proceedings.

Mssrs. Curry and Stockberger actually have a rather long history of performing together, going all the way back to their first venture together at a summer theatre production in Galveston, Texas in 1988. As many of us have previously seen in their frequent appearances together on the B&B stage, they have developed a natural feel for each other’s talents and the results are always a pleasure to watch.

Greater Tuna2

Arles Struvie (left) and Aunt Pearl Burras are just two of the nearly 20 zany characters from Tuna, Texas played by Jeff Stockberger and Eddie Curry in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s “Greater Tuna”.

Working through a very 1980’s toned script, the two gentlemen create characters that are at once identifiable – from the overwrought mother with the delinquent son and the disappointed cheerleader-wannabe daughter, to the wordy reverend, the self-righteous morality campaigner, and the kind-hearted animal shelter worker. All are broadly written and played, with a good measure of the fun being the way these two actors are costumed for their roles.

Some of the more specific points of the show, which in the 80’s bit hard on certain conventions, are not nearly as relevant today – some outlooks even feel a bit cruel by today’s standards. But, the outlandish characters are played with comedic relish and suitable pathos. The second act is a bit stronger than the first, mostly I think as act one spends a good deal of time in story setups, while act two sets the characters free.

Charlene doesn't make cheerleader

Bertha Bumiller (Eddie Curry), left, scolds her daughter Charlene (Jeff Stockberger) for sulking that she didn’t “make cheerleader” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s “Greater Tuna”.

A crew of four dressing assistants (Cindy Mollencupp, Bradley Keiper, Shaun McIlquham and Sandra Belles) keeps the action seamless, while Michael Layton’s simple set works well enough for the many locales. Costumes provided by Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre are indeed one of the pleasures of the show.

Bottomline: An entertaining evening of jokes and physical comedy make this a good start to the 45th B&B season. Curry and Stockberger always provide me with a lesson in stagecraft.

Greater Tuna continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through January 28th. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at  317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry
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