Ryan Lash & Bailey Preston in A Tuna Christmas. Photo: Marcy Zeigler
A Tuna Christmas
By Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard
Directed by Jay Padilla-Hayter
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
The town of Tuna, Texas is getting into the spirit of Christmas. Decorating contests, struggling productions of A Christmas Carol, and frequent hauntings from a Christmas phantom enliven the small-town gossip as the folks prepare on Christmas Eve. CompanyOutcast is currently staging the wholesome holiday installment of the Tuna series. And at the small NoCo Arts Center, all of the shenanigans in Tuna Texas are up close for an intimate audience experience.
Ryan Lash and Bailey Preston skillfully embody the wide variety of inhabitants of Tuna Texas. Comprised of a close-knit community of characters, Lash and Preston lean into their parts with broad comedic moments, silly accents, and plenty of quirks. Be it, excitable waitresses at the Tasty Cream or the DJs for OKKK radio, Lash and Preston take time and care to establish their characters and their relationship with one another. Most notably, Lash and Preston displays strong choices as the married gun and ammo salespeople, DiDi and RR. While Lash brings a high-spirited performance to the opinionated DiDi, Preston uses great moments of deadpan humor and facial expressions for the nerdy alien seeker, RR.
Preston takes relish in the physicality of her stock of characters. As Pearl, a white-haired geriatric, she delivers a fully formed crackling southern drawl and a stiff shuffle. With Bertha, she is given a chance to flex her straight man chops. And with Lash as Stanley and Charleen, her somewhat dimwitted if not well-meaning children, Preston’s Bertha is given many opportunities. Lash brings loveable goofiness to Stanley as he dreams of bigger things after his release from prison. But it’s Lash’s appearance as the gossip Verna which provides the most memorable performance as she constantly fans herself and scoots about in a wheelchair which she most likely does not need. Lash’s Verna hollers and yells at her staff, meddles in others’ affairs, and proves she has the final say on things.
A Tuna Christmas tends to come through the local theatre season often, with past performances at The Bards Town and Little Colonel Playhouse. While this was my first viewing of the show, I must say there was something familiar and nostalgic about each of the characters from this tiny Texan town. And as they scramble to decorate, prepare, and experience the type of small-town capers that only could occur in a place like Tuna Texas, the laughs just don’t stop.
Featuring Ryan Lash and Bailey Preston
A Tuna Christmas
December 9-11, 16-18, 2022
For tickets: Company Outcast
NoCo Arts Center
628 Michigan Avenue
Jeffersonville, IN 47130
Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!