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November 13, 2012 > Theatre Review: A Tuna Christmas

Theatre Review: A Tuna Christmas

By Jessica Noel Flohr

The holiday season has descended upon the tiny fictional town of Tuna, Texas where small town stereotypes abound. This satirical comedy created by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard is the perfect remedy for post-election, pre-holiday stress. The 22 colorful characters are represented entirely by a cast of two talented men. Several subplots woven together with zingy one-liners create an evening full of laughs.

A Tuna Christmas is the second in a series of three plays centered around an imaginary Texas town. Several characters reoccur throughout the series. Tuna, Texas is heralded as "the third smallest town in the state," and its inhabitants fully play out all the troubles of small town living.

The play opens upon a scene at the local radio station, OKKK broadcasting at 275 watts. Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis, station disc jockeys, are updating listeners on the town's main holiday event - the annual Christmas yard display contest. Rich snob Vera Carp has won 14 years in a row. Overshadowing the festivities is a mysterious Christmas vandal, nicknamed The Phantom. Townsfolk suspect the neighborhood juvenile delinquent, Stanley Bumiller, is behind the recent rash of holiday display destruction, even though he's been paying off his societal debt through community service at the town's Little Theatre production of A Christmas Carol.

Alongside the Christmas contest, the theatre production, and the shenanigans of the Phantom, Tuna matron, Bertha Bumiller, is trying to hold her family together. Bertha has one Christmas wish, that her philandering husband would come home for Christmas. Will Bertha have a blue Christmas? Or will she find a little bit of holiday spirit elsewhere?

The play was originally written for two men. After the play's debut in 1989, creators Jaston Williams and Joe Sears often starred as the cast of characters themselves. Broadway West Theatre Company has carried on this tradition with Todd Wright and Tom Shamrell taking on the roles of 22 different men and women. The drag characters enhance the hilarity of the show.

Stage decor is sparse, with little use of props. Sound effects, lighting, and numerous quick costume changes take center stage in this production, and it works very well. During one scene, cast members join the audience in listening to the radio broadcasting the winners of the holiday contest. This off-stage involvement further grabs the audience's amusement.

There is an abundance of fantastic comedic lines in this off-Broadway comedy. Since the play is about small-town Christmas in the heart of the Bible belt, many lines gently poke fun of religious sensibilities. In the final scene, faithful Baptist, Bertha Bumiller, learns to kick up her heels a bit saying, "I always wondered what it was like to be Methodist!"

This great little satire is sure to delight any theatregoer's comedic senses. The story line is very light and the many zany lines provide the audience with plenty of opportunities for laughter. This is the final show of Broadway West's 2012 season. Come down and close out the year with some good-hearted fun!

A Tuna Christmas
Nov 9 to Dec 15 (no shows Thanksgiving weekend)
8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
1 p.m. Sunday
Broadway West Theatre Company
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont
(510) 683-9218
Tickets: $15 - $23

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