Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Tuna Christmas: American Heartland Theatre

Twas the night before Christmas, Tuna, Texas, the third smallest town in that great state. All the nutcases that call Tuna (located between San Angelo and Hell) home are stirring about, havoc to wreck.

The annual Christmas light display contest, sponsored by radio station OKKK, is about to won for the 15th year in a row by Vera Carp, will the Christmas Phantom strike it down? Stanley Bumiller is about get off probation hoping to get out of this Dodge, his twin sister, the town slut, is off slutting around and as usual, their mom Bertha is waiting in vain for her drunk husband to get home. R R Snavely is searching for UFOs while his wife Didi runs the most popular store in town, the ammo and used weapons shop. Local food service professionals Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd are swamped down at the Tastee Kreme... so goes Tuna this magical night.

American Heartland Theatre (best theatre venue in regular readers know) is mounting "A Tuna Christmas" until December 28th. Jim J. Bullock (famous as a TV actor, upper right "Hollywood Square", and co host with Tammy Faye Bakker on the "Jim J and Tammy Faye Show", and local favorite John-Michael Zuerlein ("A Dog's Life") play a whole slew of characters in this hilarious study of isolated small town life. Both Bullock and Zuerlein are brilliant, the humor none too subtle and the sets (variously decorated Christmas trees, Didi's tree festooned with guns, handcuffs and grenades, draped with crime scene tape and topped with a gas mask is the winner) simple yet effective. Zuerlein almost stole the show for me with his hilarious Didi Snavely, but Bullock fights back with a subtle and sympathetic Bertha Bumiller.

A Tuna Christmas is part of a series of plays by Jaston Williams, Ed Howard and Joe Sears and has become a staple of regional theatre. Devotees of "Sordid Lives" will feel right at home in Tuna.

So before you think all is bleak in Tuna, remember this is Christmas and of course the ending is happy. Bertha, bless her heart, finally gets her see what it is like to be a Methodist.

"A Tuna Christmas", American Heartland Theatre through December 28th

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