Greg Collier & Jeff Mangum. Photo: Little Colonel
A Tuna Christmas
By Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, & Ed Howard
Directed by Katie Hay
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
The Tuna series, which began with Greater Tuna, was created to satirize rural Texas culture, a very specific brand within the American South. The holiday follow up, A Tuna Christmas, demonstrates that Christmas time, far from being the sacrosanct center of American Protestantism, has been extremely susceptible to regional social forces so that it has been to some degree refashioned to fit the tastes of those regions.
It may surprise you that it can provoke such a thoughtful response since most audiences accept it for the rollickingly silly goof of a farce that guarantees an evening of solid, uncomplicated laughs. This production, ably directed by Katie Hay and performed by Greg Collier and Jeff Mangum, easily satisfies that requirement, taking a more relaxed pace than is typical with this material. All of the characters, whether male or female, are played by two actors, with quick changes in costumes and wigs, a crowd-pleasing formula that usually works.
I appreciated that Ms. Hay didn’t push the pace to a frantic level, giving the dialogue the opportunity to connect with the more mature audiences that are the loyal base of support to Little Colonel Playhouse, and Collier and Mangum are a good team. Collier displays his characteristic knack for playing silliness with dignity, and Mangum is more relaxed and open than I’ve ever seen him. They both seem to enjoy themselves and play off each other with just enough contrast to bring out the best in one another.
Yet, it is important to remember that satire targets truths about our world and gives us a fresh perspective through the laughter, so that when one character who is a declared Baptist states that, “sometimes when I go out of town, for conventions and such, I tell people I’m Methodist and have one hell of a good time,” we cannot help but ponder how the distinction between Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopalian is what passes for cultural diversity in Tuna Texas. Christmas trees decorated with dummy hand grenades fit right into this landscape, just as much as the chili-cheeseburgers at the Tasty Kreme, but they also resonate with the news coming out of real-life Texas in recent years.
As an entertainment, A Tuna Christmas stands out from more traditional holiday fare for being less sentimental, a tart and hilarious antidote to the preponderance of candy canes that make up the cultural experience at year’s end.
A Tuna Christmas
November 30, December 1, 6, 7, 8 @ 7:30pm
December 2 & 9 @ 2:00pm
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mount Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, Kentucky 400
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.