Some people believe that the Christmas season should begin the Friday after Thanksgiving. Other people start celebrating Christmas earlier, in some cases, much earlier. If the turning of the leaves has awoken something in you and you’re beginning to feel the urge to start listening to your favorite Christmas album, you’re not going to want to miss McLean Community Players and their production of A Tuna Christmas.
A Tuna Christmas is set in the small, fictional town of Tuna, Texas. Performed as a series of interwoven vignettes, the play follows multiple townsfolk as they prepare for Christmas. The charm of A Tuna Christmas lies in the extreme double and triple casting that occurs. The six-person cast split up the sizable character list (22 completely different characters total!) and quickly changed costumes and wigs throughout the show.
The set design (Bill Glikbarg) was simple but well-executed. There were minor scene changes between scenes, sometimes as simple as adding a sign to the wall to indicate the change of location.
Direction and blocking (Jerry Bonnes) were similarly no-frills and practical. No action was superfluous and with so many actors playing multiple roles, some of the best differentiating came in the form of different character movement. Actors used as few props as possible, usually opting to pantomime.
All of the actors were charming and performed with authentic sounding Texas accents. Earle Greene and Jay E. Reiner set the tone for the show with the opening scene as radio disc-jockeys. They both thumbed through invisible papers and drank from non-existent cups while catching everyone up on the happenings around Tuna. Both Greene and Reiner have excellent voices that they used wonderfully, not just as DJ’s but in the seven other unique roles they brought to life.
The second half of the show opened with Carolyn Heier and Elizabeth LeBoo as Helen and Inita, two young waitresses and roommates. Their comedic timing and chemistry made their scenes together incredibly engaging and fun to watch.
Lorraine Bouchard’s matronly and sweet portrayal of Bertha felt warm and inviting, while still bringing some bite. With effortless poise, she commanded attention in all of her scenes.
One of the hardest working members of the cast was Shayne Gardner, who not only played Jody and Phoebe, but also was the production’s stage manager (and worked on stage dressing and props alongside Bunny Bonnes and Claire Tse).
Two other very memorable characters were Petey (Jay E. Reiner) and Didi (Elizabeth LeBoo). Reiner’s Petey, a spokesperson for the Greater Tuna Humane Society, was endearingly pathetic, particularly as the play’s events progressed and he sustained more (invisible) animal attacks. LeBoo as the gun-crazy proprietress of Didi’s Used Weapons was a perfect marriage of deadpan delivery and comedic timing.
The best thing about A Tuna Christmas by McLean Community Players was that everyone involved seemed like they were having a great time. That energy was infectious and made the show all the more special. I left with a smile on my face, looking forward to the Christmas season.
Christmas is only two and a half months away! There’s truly no better way to get into the Christmas spirit than watching McLean Community Players’ production of A Tuna Christmas.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, including one 10-minute intermission.
A Tuna Christmas plays through October 14, 2018, at Vinson Hall Retirement Community in the Community Building Ballroom – 1735 Kirby Road, in McLean, VA 22101. For tickets, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.