@ The Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St.
 

Tuna Christmas

by Ed Howard, Jaston Williams, and Joe Sears, directed by Ceil Herman

  • L to R: David Reyes as Arles and Algernon D'Ammassa as Thurston
  • L to R: Algernon D'Ammassa as Bertha and David Reyes as Charlene
  • L to R: Algernon D'Ammassa as Bertha and David Reyes as Jody
  • L to R: Algernon D'Ammassa as Bertha and David Reyes as Stanley
  • L to R: David Reyes as Helen and Algernon D'Ammassa as Inita
  • L to R: Algernon D'Ammassa as R.R and David Reyes as DiDi
  • L to R: Algernon D'Ammassa as Pearl and David Reyes as Dixie
  • Algernon D'Ammassa as Elmer
  • L to R: David Reyes as DiDi and Algernon D'Ammassa as Thurston
  • L to R: Algernon D'Ammassa as R.R.
  • L to R David Reyes as DiDi
  • L to R Algernon D'Ammassa as Pearl and David Reyes as Dixie
  • L to R Algernon D'Ammassa as Bertha
  • Raffel for tumbleweed tree crafted especially for the 2nd act of A Tuna Christmas by artist Meredith Loring. This table-top tree features hand-made ornaments created especially for it

Nov 21-Dec 14, 2014

FRI NOV 21,28, DEC 5,12 | 8:00 PM
SAT NOV 22,29, DEC 6,13| 8:00 PM
SUN NOV 30, DEC 7,14| 2:30 PM
THRS DEC 4 | 7:00 PM

Description

Reprising the roles they played last year, Las Cruces actors Algernon D'Ammassa and David Reyes star in "A Tuna Christmas," which opens Friday, November 21, 2014 at the Black Box Theatre (BBT), 430 N. Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. The play is the second installment of the hilarious and entertaining four-play "Tuna" series, written by Jaston Williams, Ed Howard and Joe Sears. No Strings Theatre Company presented the first play, "Greater Tuna," at the BBT in August 2013 to rave reviews and packed houses.

"We couldn't wait to do the 'Tuna' sequel as our winter holiday show," said director Ceil Herman, who co-owns BBT with her husband, Peter.

"Algernon and David will play a wide range of characters in 'A Tuna Christmas' just as they did in 'Greater Tuna,' making costumes and costume changes one of the biggest challenges and most delightful aspects of the show. Algernon, as Thurston Wheelis, and David, as Arles Stuvie, return us to 'Tuna,' the third smallest town in Texas, as they broadcast all the latest news and insights on radio station OKKK and update us on preparations for the annual Christmas Yard Display Contest. We hear about the Tuna Humane Society, the Tuna Little Theatre and its much troubled production of 'A Christmas Carol', Klan 249, Didi's Used Guns, the taxidermist, the Tuna Electric Company, the Tasty-Créme cafe, and many others," said Herman.

"David and I are enjoying spending time with these characters again," said D'Ammassa, who has been seen at BBT in "Crime and Punishment," "The 39 Steps" and "Private Fears in Public Places", and recently directed NSTC's production of "Terra Nova." "This play develops the characters a bit more than the first, and our work on this show has been to find the heart of this play. Beneath the silliness this is a play about love, family, growing up and moving on," he said.

"It's great getting to work on 'A Tuna Christmas' with Algernon," said Reyes, who has been seen at BBT in "The 39 Steps," "The Sisters Rosensweig," "Terra Nova" and "Into The Woods." "We will be bringing back some of the characters from last year's show and adding some new ones as well. That's the challenging part. Coming up with new voices, walks and silky quirks! Of course, it will be funny but also 'clavicle,' with touching moments that will make you smile, wipe a tear away and call your loves ones after you leave to say, 'Merry Christmas! I love you," he said.

"A Tuna Christmas" opened in 1989, following on the success of "Greater Tuna," which opened in Austin, Texas in 1981 and made its off-Broadway debut in 1982. Today, the "Tuna" series even has its own website: https://www.greatertuna.com/.

No Strings Theatre Company is raffling off this tumbleweed tree crafted especially for the second act of A Tuna Christmas by artist Meredith Loring. This table-top tree features hand-made ornaments created especially for it. Chances are $1 each and can be bought before any performance, at intermission or after any show. In addition, they will be available at the Downtown Ramble from 5:00-7:00 pm on December 5. Stop by and see the tree as well as the gourd artwork by thetheatregallery's featured artist, Karen Currier. The winning ticket will be drawn at the Sunday, December 14 performance!

Credits

Bertha, Inita, Pearl, R.R, Elmer, Thurston
Dixie, Charlene,DiDi, Jody, Helen, Stanley
Asst. Stage Manager
Director
Light And Soundboard Operator
Stage Manager
Written By
Written By
Written By

Reviews

'A Tuna Christmas' revisits beloved dysfunction of hometown holidays
- By Marissa Bond , Las Cruces Bulletin

While in the lobby of the Black Box Theatre this past weekend, I casually eavesdropped on a group of patrons buying tickets.

"We're really excited to be here," one said. "We're big fans of Tuna, Texas."

For a fictional town, Tuna has garnered a lot of followers. "A Tuna Christmas" is the second play set in Tuna, Texas, as part of the series written by Ed Howard, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears. More than the sum of its individual characters, the idea of a place like Tuna has captured imaginations since "Greater Tuna" premiered in Austin in 1981.

Like the original, this 1989 follow-up has more than 20 characters played by just two actors. In this production, Algernon D'Ammassa and David Reyes take on the challenging spectrum of ages, genders and personalities represented by Tuna's residents.

The holiday suggestion of "peace on earth" has gone unnoticed in Tuna. The city secretary is threating to shut the lights off on this year's production of "A Christmas Carol" over an overdue light bill, Bertha's husband is nowhere to be found and the mischief of the mysterious Christmas Phantom has everyone on edge. Most of the residents suspect Bertha's son, Stanley, and he wants nothing more than to finish his probation and get out of town. Vera wants to win the yard display trophy for the 15th year in a row, but Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd want to challenge her winning streak - or maybe they just want a few good men. Didi wants her husband R.R. to stop seeing aliens, but, well, he just can't help it when they just show up.

A little strange, maybe, but what do you expect from a town with an elk season but no elk?

"A Tuna Christmas" is funny, and as a comedy, it feels no need to limit itself to a specific genre. Physical comedy shares scenes with wry dialogue and dramatic irony. And it is a satire, of course - the radio station is called OKKK, after all - but a gentle satire, born of familial familiarity, affectionate while highlighting flaws.

D'Ammassa and Reyes are not strangers to Tuna, having played many of the same characters in last August's "Greater Tuna." Reyes brings to his roles a coy flirtation with the audience and an indefatigable deadpan. D'Ammassa can wrest laughter out of the audience by a well-timed brow arch, and finds surprising sweetness and complexity with the character of Bertha.

Both bring distinct characterizations to the many residents of Tuna - they aren't just wigs and hats, but ways of standing, walking and sitting. It isn't just the voice a thing is said in, but the delivery of it.

I was struck by the detail dedicated to the inbetween moments of the show. As the stage managers turned Peter Herman's simple, flexible set from a radio station to a home, D'Ammassa enters at Bertha and, fully in character, begins to help set up her home. Later, Inita and Helen linedance a table into its place as the set becomes the Tastee Kreme restaurant. In these spaces of transition where the immersive illusion could easily be lost, D'Ammassa and Reyes show how fully realized their characters are. Their easy acceptance of scene changes and the audience's presence makes Tuna more believable - in this town, that's just how things are.

That is the thing about "A Tuna Christmas." While you are there, you are not merely watching a play, you are living in Tuna. When the characters break the fourth wall - which they do frequently - they are not stepping outside of the play, but reminding you that you are inside of it, too.

Karen Ross and Erin Williams, as stage manager and assistant stage manager, deserve praise for their hard though mostly unseen work at transforming not only the stage, but also the actors from one character to another. With just seconds for costume changes, the backstage workers must have been very busy indeed.

Lighting design is one of those theatrical elements that is rarely noticed unless it is done badly, but the outdoor scene was enough to catch me and make me appreciate the job well done by Peter Herman. The moon and sudden explosion of stars was lovely, but what made the scene truly special cannot be explained without giving away a special plot point. That point was perfectly scored by Rafael Medina's spot-on sound design, and the many light and sound cues were masterfully wrangled by light and soundboard operator Anna Lopez.

A real-life bittersweet touch is the show's dedication to Las Cruces' Lisa Cano, a local artist and beloved theater patron who was unexpectedly taken from us this summer. She returned to see "Greater Tuna" many times, and had expressed how much she was looking forward to this production.

"We know Lisa is here watching it with us," said Ceil Herman during her director's speech.

"A Tuna Christmas" is the kind of production that makes me appreciate the talent we have in Las Cruces. It shows what can be accomplished when two veteran actors and an experienced director collaborate. With that many characters and plotlines the show could have become jumbled, but instead it is reined into a deliberate, controlled and thoroughly enjoyable tumult.

If you are thinking of visiting Tuna, you're in luck - the run has been extended an extra weekend, through Sunday, Dec. 14. However, I would recommend making reservations quickly, because the run was extended for a good reason - seats are filling up, and fast.

"A Tuna Christmas" runs through Sunday, Dec. 14, at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12 regular admission, $10 for students and seniors. For more information or to make reservations, call the Black Box Theatre at 523-1223.

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