Publisher: Elizabeth Hurd

“Red, White and Tuna” Full of Fun and Foibles for the Fourth of July from Jewel Box Theatre

Taylor Reich as the long-suffering Berth Bumiller. Photo courtesy of Jewel Box Theatre

Jewel Box Theatre is presenting another Tuna delight…no, not a picnic! But the third in the series of comedies that are set in the fictional small town of Tuna, Texas.  This one is called “Red, White and Tuna” and takes place during the annual Independence Day celebration.  The plays first debuting with “Greater Tuna” in 1981 and “Red, White and Tuna” came out in 1998.  The plays are usually done with just two gentlemen in all the roles consisting of about 20 characters in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas.  Written by Ed Howard, Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, the plays originally starred Sears and Williams with direction by Ed Howard.  This production differs a bit from that formula and the Tuna shows previously so successful at Jewel Box in that there is a cast of 10 to play these roles, consisting of both male and female.  This formula is very recommended by the authors as an alternative and is very popular in large companies as well as student productions.  Directed by Deborah Franklin, this production makes the most of each character and while the approach is different from the previous Jewel Box productions, Franklin makes the most of her cast.  Ignoring the standard in other productions of casting according to gender, Franklin casts strictly according to each performers humorous capacities for the character. 

The much-loved Bertha Bumiller is portrayed with great humor and some sensitivity by Taylor Reich who also plays Leonard Childers.  The two radio station announcers, Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis are played by Ross Riley and Christine Scanlon with hilarious capabilities.  Riley plays Helen Bedd in addition to Arles Struvie while Scanlon plays Inita Goodwin as well as Thurston Wheelis with completely different approaches that are virtually unrecognizable.  This production opens with a couple of old hippies who are returning to their former residents for the celebration which includes the high school reunion.  They are J. Christine Lanning as Star Birdfeather (a new-age alias) and Katie Kimberling as Amber Windchime.  These two gals are absolutely hysterical in these roles.  Kimberling is also amazing as Didi Snavely, owner of the local Used Weapons Shop.  Lanning brings Peter Fisk, the head of the local chapter of the humane society quite skillfully.

Complementing Reich’s portrayal of Bertha Bumiller with interesting chemistry is Riley’s Arles Struvie character.  As times have moved on, the long-suffering Bertha has found some happiness in her love affair with Arles and they are planning their wedding for this auspicious weekend.  This is not met with any serious delight by the Bumiller twins, Charlene and Stanley who are both portrayed by Cam Taylor.  Charlene is now an army wife whose husband is stationed far away and she is about to give birth to her first child.  Her difficult teenage years have not abated as her disposition is still as whining, selfish-absorbed and complaining as always as she expects her mom to anticipate her needs at all times.  Her brother Stanley has made quite a success for himself after his past as a juvenile delinquent.  He has become an artist, specializing in dead animals and his medium is spray paint.  He is back home briefly for an unveiling of his latest work, specifically designed to embarrass the town fathers, most specifically the Judge who sent him to reform school.  Cam portrays both these twins bringing a cringing smile to the faces of all audience members who ever had kids!  He then moves on the character of Reverend Spikes, who has just been released from prison again!  This character is really funny and Taylor makes the most of him.  The role of JoeBob Lipsey and Elmer Watkins is played by Taylor Lowell.  Lipsey is particularly amusing as he is the director of the local amateur theatre and has the typical theatrical or ‘Greek’ attitudes towards what is loosely called love..  Brian Wall is the absentee husband of Didi Snavely, R. R. Snavely.  He is a Ufologist and disappeared some time past.  He shows up again departing an alien spaceship to Didi’s disgust.  Wall, also portrays Garlette who works part of the time for the Hot-to-Trot catering company run by Helen Bedd and Inita Goodwin.  They are serving Aunt Pearls famous award- winning potato salad which has been sitting out for quite some time in the hot sun.

Brian Wall R. R. Snavely as Ufologist upon his return from earth from his trip with aliens! Photo courtesy of Jewel Box Theatre.

Vera Carp is one of the most amusing characters ever created and Chris Harris is cast perfectly in the role.  Harris uses an unusual vocal cadence which is ideal for Vera Carp making her endearingly funny.  Harris nearly steals the show as usual!  But, she has a rival in this production with Caprice Sorg as Aunt Pearl Burras.  These two ladies have excellent comedic timing and create distinctive caricatures that have just the right amount of realism to make them devastatingly hilarious.  When the two rivals wind up together forced to attend the festivities together as Virgil Carp has stolen his mother’s car, Pearl hot-wire’s the maid’s car with delight in her skill, while Vera Carp panics.  She is afraid that she will be late for the coronation as Reunion Queen.  The other contestants, Didi and Pearl dropped out and began a write-in campaign for JoeBob Lipsey.  When Vera realizes she has missed the coronation she and Pearl turn on the radio to hear the announcement for the winner.  JoeBob Lipsey has won!.  Vera is disgusted as she says ‘this isn’t the type of queen we had in mind’ and Pearl is pleased as punch!  What a scene!  Sorg and Harris are both incredible in this show.

These 10 actors, lead with such skill by Deborah Franklin and highlighted with each and every performance owe a great deal to an excellent crew from John C. Arnold as Assistant Director and Michelle Hall as Stage Manager with Lindsey Seaman assisting provide excellent support.  Costumer, Carol McDonald, Properties, Shelia Sewell, set design by Shawn Hancock, lighting by Isaiah Williams and sound by Miguel Reiner with Crista Moudy as Stage Tech create a great show. 

For a good belly laugh, visit the Jewel Box Theatre for “Red, White and Tuna” showing June 29 through July 16, 2023 at Disciples First Christian Church, 321 NW 36th St. in Oklahoma City.  Visit or call 405-521-1786 for tickets and information.  Curtain is 8:00 pm Thursday through Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees are 2:30 pm.  “Red, White and Tuna” is full of great guffaws and a great summer show for the 65th Season of the enduring Jewel Box Theatre!