Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
A Tuna Christmas
Also see Carole's recent review of The Drowsy Chaperone
Happily though, director Marc Comstock provides the perfect antidote in the form of A Tuna Christmas, now playing at Albuquerque Little Theatre. The town of Tuna (the third smallest in Texas) is gearing up for Christmas, and we witness the shenanigans of its citizens and hilarious commentaries of local news radio personalities, Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis (Jeff Dolecek and Ryan Dobbs, respectively), disc jockeys at radio station OKKK.
A Tuna Christmas, one of the sequels to Greater Tuna (which Comstock directed some time ago at the Vortex Theatre), is written by the original team of Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard, and you are so going to love this production.
The two actors play a slew of characters in a whirlwind of mischief and mayhem. Costume changes, replete with wigs and accessories, create a bevy of characters, both male and female, each with their own individual characteristics and quirks, and without exception, hilarious. From Dobbs' Bertha of the double-G cups, downtrodden wife of absent husband and proud mother of a jailbird son and his uproariously neurotic twin sister, both played by Dolecek, to the wise Aunt Phoebe and the insane neighbor Vera, character after character pop in and out, and sometimes in again. Slight alterations to the script make amusing references to Albuquerque, all of which were much appreciated by the audience at the performance I attended. I don't know how both men stay in their various characters the entire time–they are so funny, yet often so real.
Considerable credit for the success of this comedy must lay at the door of costume designer Kaylee Lynora Silcocks-Gore, assistant Chris Appleton, and dressers Lavern Wenniger, Lianne Walk and Chris Appleton. Time after time, the actors transform into an array of Tuna's citizens, morphing back and forth into their core disc jockey characters. This entire presentation is a pleasure to behold, so don't miss it. Trust me, you are going to leave the theatre a lot more lighthearted than you went in.
It's difficult to decide who my favorite personalities are in this generally affectionate, though occasionally stinging, satirical observation of (any) small town, Texas. We are all familiar with at least a few of the residents–they exist everywhere, in every level of society. Be careful, we may even be one ourselves.
This is a cheerful, zany, unpretentious comedy, and when it's done well as it is here, it hits the target at every level. I bet Comstock chose it not only because he felt this seasonal offering would remedy many of the COVID-19 woes we've endured to date, but also because he would enjoy directing the delightful duo of Dolecek and Dobbs. Lucky for him and us, he is right on both counts.
The set is great. I totally fell in love with the rotating triple-scene turntable. It really is a cracker. Kudos to Nick Fleming for that. Props master Lando Ruiz must be in his element with this production, his magic touch apparent in elements such as the Christmas trees–one a tumbleweed, the other a combination of rifles and grenades. There really is a lot to see here, and it's all good.
Normally I don't pay much attention to the music in a play–it hangs out in the background, doing its own thing. But once more, it's Lando Ruiz who elevates A Tuna Christmas to new heights with his sound design–and this from someone who doesn't usually care for country music.
Opening night's house was loudly appreciative of the talented twosome on stage. It is so nice to hear such genuine ongoing laughter once more. It must be an energizing experience for the actors. Give yourself an early Christmas present and go along to see this little gem before its run ends. It'll give you something amusing to think about when overtired kids are screaming, Uncle Ephraim has passed out under the Christmas tree, and Great Aunt Kay, high as a kite from indulging in your teenage son's special brownies, is lying on the dining room table, doing an imitation of a 1940s siren. It's only playing for two weekends, and it would be a shame to miss it.
A Tuna Christmas runs through December 11, 2022, at Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets: Adults $25, seniors (65+) $23, students (13 - University) $21, and children (12 and under) $17. For tickets and information, please call 505-242-4750 x 2 or visit albuquerquelittletheatre.org.