Last night Mrs K and I attended the Friday night second-weekend performance of A Tuna Christmas – the second installment of the famous Tuna trilogy by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. This marks the return of all the principles from last year’s Encore Award winning Greater Tuna (reviewed here ): director Jeremy Tuterow, and actors Jim LaMonte and Stephen Foxworthy. Many of the same characters are presented in this installment, and there are also a few “new faces” added to the storyline, which involves Tuna’s Christmas traditions and the mysterious Christmas Phantom. In my Greater Tuna review, I had noted how the storyline – a dark-sided one at that – had been a surprise and a bit of an encumberance to the fun of the script. In my opinion, it had been handled badly by the writers, taking the story places that  the characters (and the audience) were not prepared to go and did not resolve when they got there.

That also was a problem with this “Tuna”, but I will get to that in a moment.

The solid performances covered an incredibly wide range of characters, with each actor taking on 11 roles. Inventing so many different personae in a rapidly moving script is an intense undertaking. Mostly, these are very well done on both accounts, but having seen this 2 man troupe before, I had the feeling that there was slightly less energy at times or that there was an unsureness in places perhaps due to their coming back to the material after a few days rest. But for the most part it was a stunning variety of great creations on display and indeed, on this night, it got a standing ovation from the audience.

After seeing 2 different shows in the trilogy, I now have my favorite characters. Foxworthy’s Aunt Pearl Burras could become a mainstay in any family – she is sweetly endearing, caring of her uncared for nephew Stanley and she is a rascal to boot as she plots against a bluejay who disturbs her chickens and against the townfolk who cause her pain. LaMonte’s Petey Fisk, the good-hearted-to-a-fault Tuna Humane Shelter worker is a person whom one would like to know. His unfailing good intentions for his herd of unwanted critters is sensitive and loving. In one of the funnier features of this script that herd includes some oddly fierce stable animals.

My opinion about problems: well, there was the usual sensitivity I suffer with over slow pacing (the first act ran over an hour and 10 minutes and didn’t need to be nearly that long) and there was the afore-mentioned storyline problem with the script. Re: the script – I came to the theatre with high expectations after last year’s amazingly funny and clever Greater Tuna. So I guess there was a little disappointment in that this script just didn’t seem to have the same “fun intentions” that the former had. It was more heavily plotted and it’s humor came and went with a much cleaner, funnier (and tighter) second act standing out between the two. I had wished Williams, Sears and Howard hadn’t felt like they had to take themselves so much more seriously when they wrote this sequel. But I am happy that Tuterow, LaMonte and Foxworthy got together to give us a return visit to Tuna.

A Tuna Christmas continues with two more performances tonight and tomorrow (Dec 17 & 18) with an 8 o’clock show this evening and a 6 o’clock show tomorrow. Call for reservations at 317-767-2774.

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