ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Friends, do you have a hankering to visit out-of-state family but gas prices have kept your pickup in town? Well, sir, the Vortex Theatre may have an answer for you. Of course, the families you visit won’t be your own, and the locale is fictional Tuna, Texas, a small town swarming with loveable eccentrics and holiday angst. It is Christmas eve, and we meet twenty-two of the townsfolk—all played by Dean Eldon Squibb and Harry Zimmerman—in “A Tuna Christmas” by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard.
Let me tell you about some of the characters. The Bumiller family is as dysfunctional as they come. Mother Bertha (Zimmerman) waits for her philandering husband and worries about her children, young Jody and twins Charlene and Stanley. Charlene is marinated in attitude, and Stanley has just been released from prison. The children bear a remarkable resemblance, perhaps because they are all played by Squibb. Censorious Vera Carp (Squibb) demonstrates her noblesse oblige by leading the Smut Snatchers and eliminating the filth in “A Christmas Carol.” She has won the Christmas yard display contest fifteen years in a row.
Laboring at Tastee Kreme, Tuna’s premiere restaurant, are Inita Goodwin (Zimmerman) and Helen Bedd (Squibb); their names say it all. My favorites are the Snavelys, Didi (Squibb) and R.R. (Zimmerman). They run the local weaponry shop whose slogan is “If we can’t kill it, it’s immortal.” R.R. is cowed by his overbearing wife and finds escape in UFOs. Didi is a wonderful creation. She is a chain smoker (real chain) with the booming, raspy voice one associates with lifetime tobacco adicts. Didi has a nice scene with Bertha where she wonders how such “well brought-up girls” could “marry so bad.”
Director Marty Epstein and five backstage dressers keep the action moving. The set is simple and the various locations have different Christmas trees (Didi’s is decorated with grenades and pistols). Both actors do well with their parts, but Dean Eldon Squibb has more experience impersonating women as part of The Dolls performance troupe. And he has some shapely legs. Last year “Greater Tuna” was a popular production at the Vortex, and this year’s Tuna installment is once again great fun. There are enough funny one-liners for several plays. Just let yourself go—to Tuna for Christmas.
If You Go
WHAT: “A Tuna Christmas” by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard
WHEN: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 6 p.m. through December 23
WHERE: The Vortex Theatre, 2004½ Central, SE
HOW MUCH: $12. Reservations 247-8600