Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review: 'A Tuna Christmas' at Bickford Theatre

Jim Ligon and Michael Irvin Pollard
Hurry you have only until December 30th to visit the wacky, oh so funny residents of the third smallest town in Texas, Tuna. Never heard of Tuna? The town that is. The town's most exciting events are the annual elk shooting season, with only one problem, there are no elk in that part of the world. The other big event is the annual "Best Yard" contest that has had the same winner for the past 14 years.
All this is in the marvelous satire of redneck country, Texas style, "A Tuna Christmas" now playing at the Bickford theatre in Morristown. 

The comedy-thriller "39 Steps" is performed by four actors, "A Tuna Christmas" stars just two quick-change actors (Jim Ligon and Michael Irvin Pollard). These two hilarious comic actors portray 24 quirky characters and their Christmas adventures cleverly using imaginary props. The play is a sequel to Ligon and Pollard's very successful "Greater Tuna." Most of the colorful Tuna denizens from "Greater Tuna" are back, plus a few more. It is directed creatively by John Pietrowski. 

Most of the characters are sweet, even lovable, although a "few bricks short of a full load." If you are old enough, the type of comedy is reminiscent of radio's "Lum 'n Abner" and possibly Judy Canova. Ligon and Pollard are a joy to behold in their transformations, both male and female. As you would suspect, it is as their female characters that they score the most laughs.
The "big" media outlet in Tuna is a low powered radio station WOKKK featuring a casual morning team who dish out the town gossip and at least one aspires to move up the radio ladder to the "big time" Waco, Texas. When a teenager is in need of discipline, mother declares that the punishment is to watch an "Andy Williams Christmas Special." My favorite line concerns the possibility of going to see a movie, the negative reply goes like this "There hasn't been a good movie since Audie Murphy* died."

Be prepared to hold your sides...this a very funny, clever production featuring two marvelously talented gentlemen. Warning: just in case you didn't read the above comments...this play, actually a series of connected skits...will not remind you of "Hamlet" or "The Phantom of the Opera." Go to laugh. A commodity much too rare these days.

"A Tuna Christmas" was written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. It is a co-production of The Bickford Theatre and Playwrights Theatre (appropriate for all ages), will run through December 30, 2012, no performance Saturday, December 29.

“We are very excited to collaborate once again this year with The Bickford Theatre on this hilarious play,” said Playwrights Artistic Director John Pietrowski. “I am also excited to reunite the comic duo of Jim Ligon and Michael Pollard who teamed up a couple of years ago in an acclaimed production of Rounding Third I directed. Playwrights audiences will recognize Jim Ligon from productions of The Good Girl Is Gone and Where the Sun Never Sets and Michael Pollard from the audience hit Big Boys. These two accomplished actors create a very funny and moving holiday experience.”

“This production is just fun. I am very excited co-producing again with Playwrights Theatre and John Pietrowski and bringing back the original cast of "Greater Tuna" for this sequel. It all adds up to an ideal way for guests to fill their stockings with laughter!” said Eric Hafen, Artistic Director of Bickford Theatre.

Jim Bazewicz is the Set Designer, Ric McAllister is the Costumer Designer, and Danielle Pietrowski is the Properties Designer. Lights are designed by Roman Klima, Sound Design is by Jeff Knapp. Yumi Matsuura is the Production Stage Manager.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio December 15, 2012

Single tickets are on sale now: General Admission $45, Seniors $40, Members of the Morris Museum/Bickford Theatre Guild $38, Groups (10 or more) $30 and Students $20. For tickets, call the box office at 973-971-3706.
All performances will take place at Bickford Theatre, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ.

* The son of poor Texas sharecroppers, Audie Murphy became a national hero during World War II as the most decorated combat soldier of the war including the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for bravery that a soldier can receive. He starred in 44 movies and died in 1971.
Pictures by Tom Kelcec

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