One of my favorite pastimes during the holidays is to see as many Christmas performances as possible. Thanks to my partnership with the Straz Center, I could add A Tuna Christmas to my show list.
A Tuna Christmas tells multiple tales of a variety of characters who reside in Tuna Texas (the third smallest town in Texas) and all of these zany Texans are played by two incredibly talented actors: Spencer Myers and Derrek Phillips. While the set resembles a big red barn, it works well for the Tuna tales that pass through like a herd of chickens.
The play opens inside the sound booth of a radio station, OKKK and yes, given the radio station’s call letters you can expect a few jokes with racial undertones, which leads us to believe that some of the residents of Tuna are racist, homophobic gun lovers.
Beautifully adorned with Christmas lights, the big red barn set adds another dimension to the stage since most of the staging takes place center stages. As a door in the barn opens, the audience is introduced to new characters as the actors pop out to share monologues and jokes, which cleverly plays homage to Hee Haw’s cornfield or perhaps the doors of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.
While the show runs approximately under 90 minutes, a great deal unfolds and we learn five Texan-size life lessons in such a short production.
Love comes in many forms.
In Tuna, we meet Bertha, who loves her children unconditionally. There’s Didi who cares for her aging mother and Aunt Pearl who takes Stanley under her wing. The one-man Humane Society, Petey, tends to all furry creatures big and small in Tuna and we see a number of townspeople who genuinely care for their neighbors during the holidays.
Your past does not define your future.
Stanley, an ex-con, attempts to finish his probation but he is stuck in a small town that reminds him at every turn he is a criminal and expects him to fulfill that role. However, Stanley has other dreams outside of Tuna and his Aunt Pearl believes in him. She pushes him to redefine himself and urges him to leave Tuna. All of us could learn this lesson from Aunt Pearl. Break the self-imposes barriers and live your dream.
Tuna is a small town with a big heart. Through the production, many neighbors call on others to see what they need for Christmas. Through love and affection and a little financial support, Aunt Pearl shows Stanley kindness and offers a shot at redemption. Although, Helen is left to raise three grown kids, many neighbors and friends worry for her well-being and offer a helping hand.
While the Christmas Phantom, the local vandal, wreaks havoc throughout the town, two of the most unlikely suspects are the real culprits. These two feisty, relentless old ladies demonstrate that you are never too old to live life dangerously. Sometimes, you have to take life by the reigns and shake things up.
Be open to love at any age.
The show ends where it began, inside the OKKK radio station. Only two townspeople make it to the OKKK Christmas party, Bertha and Arles, both who represent broken, jilted hearts deserving a new shot at love. After all, rejection. After a few drinks and a little slow dancing, Bertha and Arles let down their guard and allow themselves to feel is there a better gift than companionship and love at Christmas? The only thing holding the two back is fear and something.