Small town, big laughs for ‘Tuna Christmas’

Photos courtesy Tim Moore
Dan Morrison, left, and Dennis Elkins play over 20 different characters in “Tuna Christmas,” opening Dec. 15 at Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

By Dale Scrivenger
Special to The PREVIEW
At many regional theaters, it’s not Christmas without Tuna. Tuna, Texas, that is. Since its 1989 debut as the second of a three-play series set in the “third-smallest” town in Texas, “Tuna Christmas” by Ed Howard, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears has quickly become a holiday staple of theaters around the nation.
Part of its success is a spate of colorful small-town characters with equally colorful southern sayings, all played by only two actors. With agile and comically savvy actors, “Tuna Christmas” is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
For the production at Thingamajig Theatre, opening Dec. 15 at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, director Melissa Firlit works with veterans Dan Morrison and Dennis Elkins to play more than 20 wacky southern characters, and the duo proves up to the formidable task.
Playing characters including a bouffant-sporting housewife whose favorite Christmas memories include conjugal visits to her incarcerated husband to a hard-as-nails female proprietor of a used-weapons store who wouldn’t blink at shooting someone who stole her toaster, Morrison and Elkins delight in the campy shtick that defines Tuna.
Kudos to Adrienne Young’s costuming and wigs, which facilitate Morrison and Elkins’ lightning-quick offstage wardrobe changes while clearly defining the multitude of characters the duo portray. Particularly enjoyable is her attention to detail in recurring Texan flourishes like the different variations of cowboy boots that appear. Speaking of quick changes, it is easy to see why the backstage crew is so invaluable in this show. Morrison and Elkin’s character changes are grueling and a team of dressers keep the pace clipping along with costume and wig switches, as well as two large, impressive revolving set pieces by scenic designer John Santangelo.
Perhaps what is most enjoyable about “A Tuna Christmas” is that even though Colorado is a long way from Texas, there are plenty of small-townisms and oddball characters abound in our own backyard to make the content highly relatable and full of belly laughs. The Tuna plays are a fun and meaningful way to celebrate these everyday oddities and enjoy the holiday season.
Thingamajig Theatre Company presents “Tuna Christmas,” rated PG-13, showing at Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts Dec. 15-28, weekdays and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
For tickets and show information, please visit pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW (7469).

This story was posted on December 7, 2017.