, Salem, MA


December 19, 2013

Messing with Texas on Christmas

Salem Theatre Company production a comedic peek at a small, Southern town

There are more dressers than actors in “A Tuna Christmas,” which is at the Salem Theatre Company tonight and Saturday.

It takes four people to help two performers make 23 costume changes, so they can portray 22 different characters in the play.

“We’ve got an incredible set of dressers backstage,” said Mitch Kyle, one of the actors. “They’re ripping clothes off me, and I don’t know how it happens, it’s so fast.”

The comedic send-up of Christmas in fictional Tuna, Texas, “the third-smallest town” in the state, is one of three sequels to “Greater Tuna,” which was first staged in 1981 in Austin, Texas.

As in the first play, the action in “A Tuna Christmas” centers on radio station OKKK, where disc jockeys Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis discuss local news and events.

“They stayed true to how offbeat and wacky the people in this town are,” said David Allen George, the play’s director. “But ‘Christmas’ is a better show, because there’s more point to it.

“The holiday and how one deals with it make the audience a bit more identified with it, and not just entertained by the craziness of these people in town.”

Most of the characters in “Tuna” are disappointed in Christmas to some degree, because it fails to live up to their expectations, George said.

“I think it’s one of those things,” he said. “You didn’t get what you wanted; the car breaks down.”

But George expects audiences will be more than satisfied by the performances by Kyle and Bob Karish, who possess unique skills.

“I always look at it in terms of the number of transformations they have to do,” he said. “A lot of actors can’t do that.”

The range of characters they have to play, which include both men and women of all ages, means these roles are suited for actors with plenty of life experience.

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