Nov. 25, 2002 – Depending on how long you've been a Pistarckle Theater-goer, you may or may not have seen the company's production of "Greater Tuna" at Frenchman's Reef in 1993. Or it may have been in 1994 — even the producer isn't sure.
Opening Wednesday night (rather than the usual Thursday, that being Thanksgiving Day) on the Pistarckle stage in Tillett Gardens is another chapter in the lively life of the town of Tuna, Texas, seen from the studio of the local radio station. And your laugh level won't be affected by whether or not you saw "Greater Tuna" before.
This one's titled "A Tuna Christmas," so you can see right away what the focus is on.
Yes, 'tis the day before Christmas, and the denizens of the third-smallest town in Texas are beset by such holidaze drama as a disaster-prone production of "A Christmas Carol" and a yard-decorating contest being undone by forces unknown.
New York newspaper critics loved "A Christmas Tuna." The Times called it "a hoot," The Post found it "far too good for just Christmas," and The Village Voice said "the hilarity never lets up."
The cast of "A Tuna Christmas," like that of "Greater Tuna," consists of two actors portraying the town's entire 24 human inhabitants, and more. Learning the lines is but the first challenge for the duo. Then come the voices, the accents, the split-second costume switches …
Tom Kerns and Larry Zolub did the honors in Pistarckle's "Greater Tuna" production. For "A Tuna Christmas," the actors are Scottie Brower and Phelps L'Hommedieu, an island resident and visitor, respectively, whose stage credentials might even impress the solid citizens of Tuna.
Brower, who moved to St. Thomas two years ago, made his Pistarckle debut last fall in "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)" and played Grandpa in the company's winter production of "You Can't Take It With You."
He has been in show business since childhood and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. And, says publicity, his stage credits "range from Shakespeare to Sam Sheppard, from Off-Broadway to way Off-Broadway. He has danced for the Kennedys, had his face on the cover of CD's in Ireland and played a clown 60 feet under water in a national commercial for Club Med. His film credits range from independents to major releases such as "Blaze" and "For Love or Money."
L'Hommedieu lives in the Flathead Valley ski resort community of Whitefish, Montana, with his wife, Jane Fellows, and their two children. Fellows, who has acted, directed and taught theater in Montana and Washington state for more than 30 years, was contracted to direct "A Tuna Christmas," and after the couple arrived on St. Thomas, "he auditioned for the role and got it," Pistarckle artistic director Nikki Emerich says.
An actor from his childhood in Dallas, L'Hommedieu knows about at least the urban ambience of Texas first hand. He has had leading and supporting roles in more than 30 productions in Texas, the Midwest and the Northwest, including portraying Henry Drummond in "Inherit the Wind," Harold Hill in "The Music Man" and the dentist in "Little Shop of Horrors." Oh, yes, and he's the owner and radio voice of Flathead Video and Video Excitement.
Wednesday's opening performance is Pistarckle's usual "Pay-as-You Can Night," with the price of admission just what it sounds like. The official opening is Friday, when patrons will get to enjoy not only the show but complimentary champagne and samples of the winning entries in this year's Texas Society of the Virgin Islands Chili Cook-Off. (Ever wonder what they do with the left-overs? Now you know.)
Performances continue on Thursday through Saturday nights for the following three weeks — Dec. 5-7, 12-14, and 19-21. And patrons each of those three Thursdays also will be treated to chili cook-off samples.
Curtain time nightly is 8 p.m.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $19 at the door for general admission, $10 for students, and $5 for students in groups of 10 or more. They're being sold at Bumpa's Sandwich and Ice Cream Shop, Draughting Shaft, Flagship, Tillett Gallery, Color of Joy, American Yacht Harbor, East End Secretarial Services and Marina Market. You can also purchase them with a charge card by calling 775-7877.
And if you want to indulge in some Texas-type chow at JKay's Restaurant in Tillett Gardens before the performance or later, show your theater ticket and enjoy a dinner special for $15.95. (Reservations are requested; call 776-2811.)
The Pistarckle production is being supported by Caribbean Auto, Avis Car Rental, American Airlines, Knight Quality Stations, Texas Society of the Virgin Islands and the V.I. Council on the Arts.
To learn more about the trio of Tuna productions (the third is "Red, White and Tuna"), visit the Greater Tuna Web site. And now there's even a Pistarckle Theater, Web site, where you can check out what's on the boards for 2003.
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