REVIEW: ‘Sides hurt from so much laughter’ thanks to ‘A Tuna Christmas’
“Peace on Earth, and goodwill to everybody!”
And that means you, dear reader. When the holiday season gets tough, take a trip to the Annex to see Burien Little Theatre’s latest production, A Tuna Christmas, one of four plays about a town called Tuna, Texas written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. This production gives the opportunity to enjoy a hearty laugh, taking the edge off this glorious and trying time of year. The play is directed by Timothy Kelly, who also played in BLT’s last production of A Tuna Christmas.
A Tuna Christmas follows the trials, tribulations and blessings of the Christmas season in the third smallest town in Texas. The soundtrack to Tuna life is the local radio station, OKKK, and a wonderful array of Christmas and country songs. There are 22 characters played by two talented actors, Jay Jenkins and Buddy Mahoney.
As you may imagine, costume changes are the biggest challenge in a play with such an ambitious agenda. The costumes, designed by Savannah Baltazar, are wonderful, giving the actors the tools they need in order to immerse themselves in each character. Jenkins and Mahoney along with their assistants backstage (not sure which ones last night) were amazing. If there was a pause, or minor snafu, in what must be a very exhausting whirlwind, at times, it wasn’t anything that detracted from the wonderful experience of two men playing all the characters.
The writing is very funny, though, at times, outside of the kinder, gentler PC zone. There are stereotypes and caricatures aplenty, each adding to complete the picture of a small town: the dysfunctional family, the uppity neighbor, a couple of cheerful diner waitresses, to name a few.
Jenkins and Mahoney successfully pull off so many of the characters. It is amazing when good actors can exit stage left as one character, and reenter stage right a few seconds later fully in character as someone completely different. My favorite actor of the two, though not by too much, is Buddy Mahoney. His ability to bring so many flavors of Texas small town women to life is uncanny. His portrayal of Helen Bedd, a diner waitress, Didi Snavely, the owner of the local used weapons shop, and Vera Carp, the uppity woman who has won the Christmas yard display contest for 14 years running, was amazing. He absolutely disappears into the characters and becomes these women, including hilarious timing and individual idiosyncrasies. Mahoney’s portrayal of Petey Fisk, the animal activist is also wonderful. So funny.
Jay Jenkins was wonderful as Bertha Bumiller, the unhappy wife, and mother of grown twins and younger son. She is unhappy with how her life has turned out. Jenkins finds the balance between sensitivity and hilarity. His portrayal of Bertha’s Aunt Pearl Burras is a gem. She seems to be the most complex, thoughtful character. Jenkins performance grounds the play and gives meaning to the evening.
In the end, redemption is received, justice is served, the sides hurt from so much laughter, and one can resume real-life Burien holiday season feeling that life here is pretty darn good.
Merry Christmas, Burien Little Theatre!!
Here are some photos from the production, courtesy Michael Brunk (click images to see larger versions/slideshow):
To save $3 on tickets, just click the image below, then print the coupon on your printer (save up to $5 per ticket if you bring non-perishable food donations for the Highline Area Food Bank!):
For tickets or information, go online to www.burienlittletheatre.org or call the ticket office at 206-242-5180.