It seems that every theatre company has its own Christmas show or two. The Little Lake Theatre Company in Canonsburg has A Tuna Christmas, set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas. Like everywhere else, the Yuletide holidays can wreak havoc, and create turmoil in what is otherwise a pretty low-key community. The “big doins” here is the town’s annual Christmas Yard Display Contest, usually won (14 times in a row) by one Ms. Vera Carp. This year the contest has been thrown into tailspin by a mysterious “Christmas Phantom,” who is covertly sabotaging the yard displays! Tuna embraces the usual holiday angst of Christmas; tipsy radio announcers, a crazy gun dealer, reform school loser, stressed waitresses, over-crowded animal shelters, alcoholics, dysfunctional siblings and grandmas, a pregnant cat and a struggle to mount the annual holiday pageant production without electricity.
If all that sounds silly, it is, and fun as well! A Tuna Christmas is a loving yet biting satire of life in a small Texas town. The second of three “Tuna” plays, it was first produced in 1989 and played a command performance at the White House for President George H.W. and Barbara Bush.
In reality, all three Tunas resemble the TV comedy sketches by Harvey Korman and Tim Conway from the Carol Burnett Show which, aired on CBS the previous decade. As cleverly written by Ed Howard, Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, Tuna Christmas’ large cast of characters pop in-and-out of scenes like customers at a Starbucks in the morning.
To add just a bit more zaniness, the authors have chosen to have all twenty-two of the townspeople played by only two actors. Kevin Bass and Art DeConciliis who brilliantly share the load equally performing the mixed bag of characters; young, old, men, women and all just a little off center. Dozens of back and forth costume changes occur at breakneck speed throughout the show. Dressers Rebecca Herron and Danette Marie Levers receive well-deserved billing for their herculean efforts.
A Tuna Christmas is so watchable and enjoyable due to the excellent physical comedy skills and near-perfect comedic timing of Bass and DeConciliis (who also co-directs). Theirs is a combination of Korman, Conway, Red Skelton and Robin Williams style-wise with the delivery of punch lines like two boxers feinting and throwing punches in the ring. Both actors have years of experience working together and separately, and it shows in the quality of their work. Yes, the jokes are a little stale. Co-director Jena Oberg, Bass, and DeConciliis offer a few surprise jokes reflecting current times.
Yes, the show is a bit too long. None the less, the audience filled Little Lake’s barn theatre with laughter and smiles throughout the evening. Watching these two veteran actors pull off the show in a brilliant an engaging fashion is definitely worth the trip to Canonsburg.
A Tuna Christmas runs December 1st, 2nd, 7th 8th 9th 14th, 15th 16th at the Little Lake Theatre. For tickets visit https://www.showclix.com/event/a-tuna-christmas
This show will sell out quickly so don’t wait to get your tickets.
Thanks to Little Lake Theatre for the complimentary tickets.