BWW Review: A TUNA CHRISTMAS Proves Sometimes Less is More
It's Christmas in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas where the Lion's Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies! Between the holiday yard display contest and the Little Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" on the brink of cancellation, it's a miracle anyone gets tinsel on a tree. Three actors play all 25 colorful citizens of Tuna, including OKKK Radio hosts Thurston Wheelis (Will Mercer) and Arles Struvie (Ryan H. Bailey) who report on the small-town festivities. A TUNA CHRISTMAS is a satirical ode to the season spiked with sass and shenanigans.
Originally done with two actors playing all the roles, the show has been reconceived by director Jaston Williams, and now uses 3 actors to play 25 characters. The third actor is Tim Casper, who gets three characters that are new to this piece: Ronnie Pert, Harold Dean Latimer and Phinas Bley. I hold a very fond place in my heart for the TUNA TRILOGY and the characters written by Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, along with Ed Howard. As the piece has been rethought and directed by Jaston Williams, the scene changes are now done by a crew of elves, all of which have attitudes. It's clear they are not your generic elves. While this is a nice, clever touch, they seemed to move in slow motion, making the scene changes seem longer than they needed to be.
I can't fault the actors; Will Mercer, Ryan H. Bailey, and Tim Casper all do a great job. That being said, using three actors to do a show that traditionally has been done for decades by just two actors, kind of dampens the "wow factor". The costume changes aren't as lightening fast, which really shows up in Act Two, in the Tastee Kreme scene, where characters come and go at a remarkable pace. When one of your actors is no longer making those rapid costume changes, it loses some of the magic. Also, I don't understand why Phinas Bley was added to this show. His character has nothing to do with the story line and because he is so weirdly inserted, he comes off as a caricature, where all the others are actual people...crazy, bigger than life Texans, I grant you, but they are all grounded in reality.
Michael Krause's scenic design is quite nice as are Linda Fisher's costume designs. I especially liked the chenille robe she designed for Aunt Pearl in Act Two. Rachel Atkinson did a great job with the lighting design, especially the UFO effects. Serret Jensen's wigs are also spot on for the characters.
Please, don't get me wrong; A TUNA CHRISTMAS is still hilariously funny and these three actors are delightful in these roles. It's still a great funny evening in the theatre. I'm just a little saddened that it isn't quite as theatrically magical as it used to be.
A TUNA CHRISTMAS by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howard
Running Time: Two Hours, plus Intermission. Recommended for ages 12 and up for adult humor.
A TUNA CHRISTMAS, produced by Zach Theatre in collaboration with the Paramount Theatre, on the Kleberg Stage at ZACH Theatre.
November 01 - December 31, 2017, Wednesdays - Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. ASL Interpreted and Open Captioned: Wednesday, December 13, 2017.
Tickets $30 - $78 plus fees. For tickets, go to the Zach website.