Texas sized laughs for ‘Tuna Christmas’

Photo courtesy Elly Heitkamp-Osmera
Dennis Elkins and Dan Morrison play over 22 outrageous characters in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, in the hilarious “A Tuna Christmas,” playing now at Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

By R. Eli Townsend
Special to The PREVIEW
The laughs don’t come better or bigger than from Tuna, Texas, a fictional town that delightfully passes through Thingamajig Theatre Company’s stage via the talents of Dennis Elkins and Dan Morrison. These two guys are made for the hilarious spoofery of “A Tuna Christmas,” created by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard.
This quirky world of Texas appeal picks up where the trio’s first play, “Greater Tuna,” left off, with our boys Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie on the air at the radio station talking weather and Tuna news. It’s the day before Christmas and all is not in perfect order in the greater Tuna area.
We meet 22 citizens of Tuna, ranging from Petey Fisk, the only member of the town’s Humane Society, to Elmer Watkins, its arson enthusiast. There is a dreaded Christmas phantom loose who renders Christmas decorations unfit for the annual Tuna Christmas Yard Display Contest. Vera Carp, acting leader of Smut Snatchers of the New Order, makes an appearance, along with Didi Snavely, owner of Didi’s Used Weapons. The Bumiller family returns and Joe Bob Lipsey directs a problem-beset production of “A Christmas Carol.”
The biggest hoot of the evening is watching these two pro comedic actors rapidly change costumes and characters, a feat that they accomplish with maximum hilarity and skill. They portray all ages and genders with humor and panache, but both are especially funny in their female roles. The plot, such as it is, unfolds one or two characters at a time, though Elkins and Morrison can give the impression of five or six Tuna citizens appearing all at once. The play turns on one-liners and sight gags and the fast pace of character changes, feeling like a familiar romp through “The Carol Burnett Show,” complete with side-splitting stage mishaps and slapstick comedy. For all its boisterous irreverence, “A Tuna Christmas” delivers a sweet ending, which the two actors play deliciously well.
Melissa Firlit directs the show and serves as sound designer. John Santangelo’s setting is simple and very effective: an illuminated shack with a couple of tables and chairs and a small tree that changes adornments depending on the scene. The actors provide the rest and never leave us longing for more.
It looks like local Pagosans have endorsed this one as well. A review on the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts’ social media page offers the following fabulous endorsement: “Two weeks ago we saw Tuna Christmas in Austin with Jaston Williams directing (the playwright) and (my opinion) this performance was better. The actors were so in sync, it was like watching hilarious choreography. Yay! A must-see.” — P. Love.
“A Tuna Christmas” may serve for some of you as an excellent antidote to the humdrum aspects of the season. Elkins and Morrison are splendid as the Tuna-ites and you’ll leave the theater with a Texas-sized smile as you welcome the holiday season.
“A Tuna Christmas,” rated PG-13, is playing at Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts weekdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, visit pagosacenter.org or call 731-SHOW (7469).

This story was posted on December 22, 2017.