Make TUNA a Part of Your Holiday Feast

by David Bradford

I went to review a show and ended up having the wonderful, but rare, quintessential classic community theater experience! An all volunteer community theater organization, operating in a nicely renovated historical building, using nothing but simple sets, lighting, and the sweat and determination of a talented group of local actors, whom nearly everyone in the sold out audience seemed to already know, staging a nonstop laugh-fest with a seasonal theme. That experience is exactly what you will get when you go and see A TUNA CHRISTMAS, now playing at the Kent County Theatre Guild’s Patchwork Playhouse in Dover.

Waitresses Inita Goodwin (Will McVay) and Helen Bedd (Denis Stanton) get ready for a day at the Tasty Creme in the Kent County Theatre Guild's excellent production of A TUNA CHRISTMAS, running in Dover, DE through December 18.

A TUNA CHRISTMAS, by Ed Howard, Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, is a holiday themed sequel to the uproariously funny GREATER TUNA.  In the original production, the 24 roles in the show were played by just two men (Sears and Williams). In the Kent County Theatre Guild’s production, Director Patti Gatto uses four incredibly talented men (Mike Polo, Bruce Leister, Denis Stanton, and Will McVay) to fill the roles of the men and women from Tuna, Texas. Yes, I did say women. With nine of the characters being women, none of the men escape donning the drag. The intensity of the laughter just in seeing these men in dresses is a clear indication of just how many people in the audience know the cast members. That is when you know you are sitting in the cozy seats of a truly classic community theater.

The story returns us to Tuna on Christmas Eve where local radio station hosts Thurston and Arles fill us in on the day’s news, including the upcoming annual yard decorating contest. Meanwhile, Bertha Bumiller tries desperately to create a festive Christmas for her three children, each of whom have their own issues. She does this while fervently hoping that her good-for-nothing husband will actually come home for Christmas. The citizens of the town are also trying to discover the identity of “The Phantom” who has been running around sabotaging Christmas yard displays. These, and many other storylines, play out through the show.

With only four actors in the cast it should be easy to give a personal critique of each. However, they work so well together as an ensemble, and the costumes are so effective, that it is very easy to lose track of who plays whom, despite it being listed quite prominently in the program. Polo, Leister, and Stanton all appeared to be theatre veterans who used their years of experience to successfully play a wide range of characters. McVay was the youngster of the group. Despite lacking the years of experience his fellow cast members had, he, too, handled himself admirably. What an amazing cast!

If you’re looking for a holiday production that will enrapture you and imbue you with the holiday spirit, look somewhere else. But, if you are looking to forget about all the stresses the season brings for a few hours and laugh yourself silly, then you need to climb into your car and head to Dover. The Patchwork Playhouse of the Kent County Theatre Guild is a mere 2 minutes off of Route 1 and a snap to get to. The renovated church is warm and inviting and even has a bar available before and after the show and during intermission. This holiday season, treat yourself to the “Quintessential Classic Community Theater Experience”. Pay a visit to the Kent County Theatre Guild and catch A TUNA CHRISTMAS!

by Ed Howard, Joe Sears, and Jaston Williams
Directed by Patti Gatto
December 3 – 18, 2010
Kent County Theatre Guild
140 E. Roosevelt Avenue
Dover, DE

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