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'Greater Tuna' comedy comes to Rio stage

Justin Ivie (left) and Morgan Lund portray two small-town radio announcers in "Greater Tuna."

What do two disc jockeys at radio station OKKK, the members of the Smut Snatchers of the New Order, two very different twins, a child who is constantly followed by a pack of dogs, a Humane Society employee wrecked by the plight of ducks, a cranky old lady who poisons poodles, a UFO-spotting nut job, a city council candidate who wants to tax prisoners and a used weapons dealer have in common?

They all live in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas.

"Greater Tuna," a comedy by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, is the next featured performance at Helper's Rio Theatre.

Radio announcers Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie (when they remember to turn on their transmitter) and a cast of 20 wacky Tuna residents - all portrayed by only two actors - put on a fast-paced, quick-change farce.

Morgan Lund (artistic director of The OtherSide Players) has performed the comedy twice before - once in Cleveland, Ohio at the Porthouse Theatre and last year in Kentucky at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. It has become one of his most beloved plays and one of the most produced plays in the U.S. His favorite character in Tuna is Bertha, loving Mother and concerned Tuna citizen. Asked why he likes Bertha, Lund replies "She's got really neat heart. She's the heart and soul of the play." Others say it is because he gets to dress up in a pair of pumps and a polyester pant suit. Lund continues, "I think the audience is in for a great time with lots of laughs that will make this holiday season a memorable one."

Justin Ivie is well-known in Salt Lake City for his appearances in "Saturday's Voyeur," the long running musical review at The Salt Lake Acting Company. He holds a BA in music, dance and theatre from Weber State University and a MFA in acting form Northern Illinois University. His resume also includes performances at the Old Lyric Repertory Theatre in Logan, The Pioneer Theatre in Salt Lake and the Egyptian Theatre in Park City. Justin says he is "happier than a hog at a vegan convention to represent one half of the fine people of Tuna, Texas to y'all here at the Rio Theatre." He also designs scenery and theatrical masks, writes an occasional play, and sometimes even plays the banjo when he's pretty sure no one is listening. This is his premiere performance at The Rio Theatre with The OtherSide Players.

Jim Phelps, of Salt Lake City, is directing the production and says "It is fascinating to be working in Helper where I first spent time during my pre-teen years at both my Grandparents' house on Hill Street and at my Uncle 'Doc' Phelps' house overlooking the valley."

The play will run Dec. 9-12 and 16-19. Curtain time for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances is 7:30 p.m. The Sunday shows will be at 2 p.m.

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