A Tuna Christmas is a wacky comedy about the holiday season in Tuna, Texas. Two actors play all of the characters, slipping backstage for quick changes that bring us Red-State simpletons like the owner of the local gun shop and her put-upon husband, typical small-town high-schoolers, the animal attack-prone head of the Humane Society, and two old ladies conspiring to fool the rest of the town.
Actors Jeffrey Gilpin and Alan King do a perfectly serviceable job, but there's no spark in their performances; they play one note for the entirety of the show, and all of the characters begin to run together by the end of the first act. Making fun of those silly rubes is just tiresome after about five minutes, and the gag of "Hey, that's a guy in a dress and a wig!" only works once. As soon as they run out of the simplest gags, Oregon Rep runs out of tricks. Mugging and squealing might squeeze out a few laughs, but it's lazy and irresponsible—especially if you're a company that makes a big deal about how experienced and professional you are.
So, Portland, let's have a word: If you want to be taken seriously as a theater town, then you're going to have to set your standards a little higher. We have some talented groups and exceptional theater professionals in this area—but there are many times when you wouldn't know it because of the lazy crap that's being put onstage.
There's nothing wrong with community theater favorites like A Tuna Christmas. Light and fluffy, they're consistently amusing and a great way to capitalize on our need for holiday entertainment we can take Grandma to. Fine. But if, like Oregon Repertory Theatre has now done two years in a row, you're going to make a lazy choice in order to get butts in seats, then give the people who belong to those butts a little more to work with. Show us nuance. Show us intent. Show us a little fucking range, for god's sake. There's no excuse for a company that calls itself professional to put on a show that could just as easily be seen at a local high school.