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‘A Tuna Christmas’ Offers a Thigh-Slapping, Side-Splitting Take on Christmas
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Saturday, December 18, 2021
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Forget the wise men. They’re not a part of Christmas in Tuna, Texas.

Instead, you have characters like Bertha Bumiller, who decorates her Christmas tree with license plates her son made in reform school…Didi Snavely, the crotchety proprietor of Didi’s Used Weapons, who tops her tree with a gas mask and trims it with hand grenades, pistols and shotgun shells…andVera Carp, who is trying to win her 15th Christmas yard decorating contest with a nativity scene that features Bing Crosby and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas right alongside Mary and Joseph and the shepherds.

 A filmed stage performance of “A Tuna Christmas” will be shown at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 21-22 at The Argyros in Ketchum. Tickets are $15, available at https://theargyros.org Children under 14 will be admitted free.

 The screening is being mounted by Gary Hoffman, founder of the Royal Larkspur Players which typically does at least one play or play reading in Ketchum each year. He is offering it as a benefit for The Argyris.

Hoffman saw a professional staging of “A Tuna Christmas” in Louisville, Ky., and jumped at the chance to screen the filmed stage performance when he learned that the semi-annual production of “A Christmas Carol” was not going to be held this year.

“Most Christmastime film and theater offerings tend to be syrupy. Tuna Christmas is much more grounded in reality—it’s a slice of life in a tiny Texas town at this time of Peace on Earth Good Will Towards Men,” he said. “Simple humanity rules the day--foibles, biases and all. With enormous laughter throughout and an ultimately warm and human conclusion, all are left with a happy feeling, which is what the holiday is all about.”

This cross between Gomer Pyle and “Deliverance” was presented live at the nexState Theatre—the forerunner of The Argyros--by Scott Creighton and David Blampied in 2003.

“Over the years I have heard laments that it has never come back,” said Hoffman. “The audience will be blown away by the sublime talents of two actors who can create 24 believable characters—male and female and all ages. To play so many characters, you have to have great timing and the ability to change expressions, your manner of walking, even the way you hold a cup of coffee. You have to have character memory and it’s hard, it’s really hard.”

Add perfect timing, lightning quick costume changes and a great script with appropriate musical scoring and you’re in theater heaven, Hoffman said.

“Tuna Christmas” opened in New York City during Christmas 1994. Written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, it’s part of a trilogy of Tuna plays that includes “Greater Tuna” and “Tuna Red, White and Blue.”

But you need not have seen the other two to have a rollicking good time at “Tuna Christmas.”

Just sit back and listen as the announcers at Radio Station WKKK provide the town news, including that of the Christmas Phantom that’s sabotaging Christmas decorations and the Smut Snatchers who are cleaning up the script of the local community theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Heck, The Drop Back and Punt Club is even holding a 24-hour prayer vigil for the town’ head football coach—if he flunks the Texas State Teachers competency exam one more time he’s going into politics.

But, besides being a funny play, a thread of sweetness runs through it as two lonely old ladies share remembrances and a motorcycle nephew and his aunt draw close. A wonderful slice of life play with a southern drawl.

“Real people, real time rivals and above all it is Texas in a place where the Lion’s Cub is too liberal and Patsy Cline lives on forever,” said Hoffman. “The guys behind it are Texans and the Texans loved it. They say, ‘I know that person.’ ‘I know someone just like that.’ ”

 DID YOU KNOW?

 J. McLaughlin dress shop will have festive sips from noon to  4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21, at its shop on 520 E. 4th St. in Ketchum. Fifteen percent of sales will benefit the Argyros Cnter for the Performing Arts at that time.

 


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