by Lynn Geyer
For those of you who unfortunately missed the opportunity of spending some time in “Greater Tuna,” Texas, last year, Lakewood Playhouse aims to correct that mistake by offering “A Tuna Christmas” for your holiday cheer.
The little town of Tuna — Texas’ third smallest village at 915 — brought to us by playwrights Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, is fraught with some of the most weird characters ever to traipse across a stage.
There is the over-competitive resident Vera Carp determined to win the Christmas outside lighting trophy for a 15th year in spite of the Christmas Phantom. Tuna also has its overly kind-hearted citizens like Petey Fisk, who takes in helpless animals which have a tendency to turn on him, sometimes viciously. There’s gun-toting saleswoman Didi Snavely, who has a weapon for your every need.
Then there’s the family of Bertha Bumiller, consisting of the mournful stay-at-home house-frau who must contend with her self-absorbed daughter, a half-witted son who brings home any stray animal he can lure to the house (including a pregnant cat) and another son, recently released from prison and soon to return if Bertha doesn’t get him out of town fast enough. Finally, there is her husband who is on the road more than he is at home — or so Bertha thinks. Her extended family includes Aunt Pearl Burras, whose latest compulsion is the disposal of a passel of blue jays pestering her yard.
Tuna is a small town with so many quirky citizens you’d think you were in Pine Valley in an episode of “All My Children!”
However, there is a difference with the population of Tuna — all twenty-odd (very odd) residents portrayed are played by only two actors.
Marcus Walker, the Managing Artistic Director of Lakewood Playhouse and Scott Campbell, the Managing Artistic Director of Tacoma Little Theatre have once more banded together to reprise their roles of the residents of Tuna, Texas.
If you thought it was funny last year, you’ll howl at this production.
This year’s “Tuna” offering is again very competently directed by Elliot Weiner, who manages to perfectly bring out the comedic side of the town’s people’s misfortunes.
The two leads are, in a word, terrific!
Campbell is a hoot as the aforementioned Petey and the competitive Vera Carp and even funnier as the three hapless Bumiller children.
Walker is hilarious as the bedraggled Bertha and almost mystical as R. R. Snavely, who spends his nights searching for aliens he is certain he has seen before. The director-turned-actor is equally as comical as the beleaguered Aunt Pearl.
Walker and Campbell are supported by a bevy of stagehands, including Stage Manager Amber Rose Johnson and her assistants Blake York and Hanna R. Myers and five dressers who make those quick changes possible. These camouflage artists are Barb Colwell, Tim Colwell, Laura Conn, Leigh Duncan and Ann Gosch.
The set is by Larry Hagerman and Hally Phillips, who also does the zany costumes; the lighting design is Kristen Zetterstrom and the sound design is by Joe Kelly.
Add to this impressive entourage of backstage workers a dozen more who made this memorable production possible.
The number of man-hours which go into even a seemingly simple production like “A Tuna Christmas” is staggering. Most of this time is done by volunteers. Try it — you’ll like it.
A little side bar: both theatres are in the midst of their annual fund raising campaigns; consider this as an extra Christmas present to yourself and the communities.
“A Tuna Christmas” continues at the Lakewood Playhouse at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5 with 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday November 5 and 6. After the end of this short, short run in Lakewood, the stars, director and all the back stage helpers travel north to Tacoma Little Theatre to complete this collaborative run December 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. showings December 12, 13, 19 and 20.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Don’t let the Christmas Phantom spoil your chance to make a delicious Tuna-on- Stage Sandwich for your holiday pleasure.