Two actors, about 20 characters, tons of laughs for ‘A Tuna Christmas’

A teen-age girl who is obsessed with her theater teacher, the raspy-voiced female owner of a used gun shop and one of the town’s radio hosts are just a few of the roles John Hutchens takes on in A Tuna Christmas at Presidential Dinner Theatre (formerly Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre).

Memorizing the lines, mannerisms and character voices for about 10 characters of various ages and genders isn’t the toughest part of the show, according to Hutchens who along with Brandon Brune will bring the comedy to life for two weekends starting Nov. 10.

“Probably the most challenging part is the pantomime,” said Hutchens.

Both Brandon Brune (left) and John Hutchens have had facial hair during the rehearsals, but that will be gone by the time the curtain rises on ‘A Tuna Christmas.’ Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

When the characters are drinking coffee, there will be no coffee cups, no coffee maker, no counter where the items would be. It’s all coming from the mind of the actor, but the motions have to look real.

Hutchens said director Steve Walpert has reminded him on several occasions that you can’t drink your thumb, cueing him to watch how he’s holding the imaginary cup to give the illusion of drinking coffee.

Hutchens has performed in A Tuna Christmas before. He’s also performed twice in Greater Tuna, which was written by the same playwrights with the same characters. However, he’s doing the opposite sets of characters this time around.

So, he’s leaving the familiarity of the roles to bring new characters to the stage.

Walpert said audiences should plan to just have fun with this show.

“This play is wonderfully funny,” he said. “The amazing thing is these two guys are doing all of the characters; they have quick costume changes; sometimes they walk out as one and come back on the other side of the stage as another.”

 Set in the fictional third smallest town in Texas, A Tuna Christmas focuses on Tuna’s annual Christmas yard display contest which has been won for 14 years in a row by Vera Carp, but someone is vandalizing the displays this year.

While that’s the major plotline, the lives of the other characters bring in other subplots.

Walpert said that Brune and Hutchens do an incredible job of giving each of the characters personalities of their own.

A Tuna Christmas will be performed Nov. 10-12, 17 and 18. The show will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 10-11, 17-18 with dinner at 6:45 p.m.; the Nov. 12 show will be at 3 p.m. with lunch at 1:45.             

The menu includes mixed green salad, roasted turkey breast with dressing and cranberry sauce, baked ham, macaroni and cheese, Southern-style collard greens, honey-glazed carrots, cornbread and a holiday themed dessert.

Tickets range from $30-$55 with a variety of different discounts. For reservations, call (706) 793-8552.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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