CHAOTIC CHRISTMAS IN TUNA 

Nampa's CAN-ACT troupe returns to wacky Texas town

If you missed the first play about the denizens of the third smallest town in Texas, Greater Tuna, you may be a bit confused with A Tuna Christmas, but the talented twosome, Randall Webster and Rob Kelley, will bring you up to speed in no time. The only problem will be keeping up with the two bearded guys as they portray 21 of Tuna's distinguished citizens--many of them women.

You may think the Christmas season is over, but in Tuna, it just goes on and on and on, as OKKK, the local radio station, covers the news with Thurston Wheelis (Webster) and Arles Struvie, (Kelley), the two chatty gossipers who know the dirt about everyone. When they describe the holiday lawn display contest, with stable scenes that include Bing Crosby, you know who will win the butane powered flame-thrower prize.

Didi Snavely is one of Kelley's funniest creations, with her thick, blond pigtails tied with red bows, raspy voice, bad temper, cartridge "necklace" and strange, staring eyes. Her used weapons business has the slogan "Aims to Please."

Webster's unforgettable character is Bertha Bumiller, decked out for Christmas in a spangled sweater, with a festive tree ornament bobbing in her blond hair. Webster minces about in bright red high heels that match the frames on her glasses. Bertha is hilarious as she decorates her pitiful tree, argues with her children and hopes for her perennially missing husband to show up for the holiday. Despite all the laughs, she even evokes pity for her unique situation.

Other highlights in the show are school chums Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd, dressed in their signature white dresses, working in the Tastee Kreme Café. Their purring Southern accents and methods of coping with problem customers are hilarious.

As impossible as it seems, Webster and Kelley create a different voice, walk and costume for every character, and their changes are fast and furious. Some of Kelley's shoes reveal a difficulty in getting ladies pumps in masculine sizes, but seeing his large heels overflowing his little ballerina slippers is pretty funny.

You can pick your favorites from such colorful characters as Aunt Pearl Burras, RR Snavely, Joe Bob Lipsey, all played by Webster, or Petey Fisk, Vera Carp, Dixie Deberry (don't you love these names?) or the three Bumillers: Jody, Charlene and Stanley, all created by Kelley. There's even an alien abduction. This play has everything, and Director Karen Sample wrings every laugh possible out of the goofy script.

Even the no-frills style of the production adds to the fun, with the actors saying "Ring," when there's a phone call, and Kelley's portrayal of the extreme animal lover with his lizard, Paula, being yanked about the stage by his wild coyote, Fresno, was an audience favorite.

The cute elves that smoothly change the stage settings are efficient, but by the second act, everyone seems to be slowing down, and the time between the scenes, probably because of the elaborate costume changes, becomes longer. And I mean elaborate. They don't just change hats and shoes. The female characters even have earrings, lacy slips, purses and painted toenails.

These actors are so clever and convincing, even in the absurdity of all the silly characters, ridiculous goings-on and bizarre outfits, that at the final Christmas Eve party when two of the characters are dancing, you almost wait for the other people to show up. Now that's amazing!

A Tuna Christmas

By Jaston Williams, Joe Spears, Ed Howard; directed by Karen Sample

Presented by CAN-ACT Theater, upstairs at Karcher Mall, Nampa

8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Jan 22; 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20

Matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15

Tickets $7 on Thursday and matinee; $8 on Fridays and Saturdays

For reservations call 442-0676; or online at www.can-act.org.

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