They're back, those endearing-albeit-nutsy folks from Tuna, Tex. The boisterous Bumillers. That rich, eccentric Vera Carp. The ever-lovable Aunt Pearl. Tough ol' Didi Snavley and her sauced hubby, R.R.
You say you never met them before? They've been here a couple of times, in Jaston Williams and Jason Sears's political satire on the moral majority, "A Greater Tuna," of a few years back and last year during the first run of the duo's sweet holiday tale, "A Tuna Christmas." If this is your introduction to this theatrical silliness, then pull up a chair and listen to Williams and Sears explain the residents of the third-smallest town of the great Lone Star State.
"Well, there's Vera," says Sears. "She heads the smut society and she is trying to strike all the dirty words from Charlie Dickens's 'The Christmas Carol,' " the town's Christmas play. Vera is also flustered that the town's carolers are singing 'Round Young Virgins' in one of those treasured Christmas tunes, not realizing that, in fact, they are singing, " 'round yon virgin."
"She's a real tyrant," says Williams, "but she doesn't realize it."
Then there's the Bumiller family, with it's loving matriarch, Bertha.
"She's a symbol of all Texas mothers," says Williams. "Shoving oatmeal down her kids' throats and doing everything by the book. And none of the children turn out right." One of her kids, Stanley, says Sears, just got back from reform school.
"Didi Snavley has a used weapon store," says Williams. "She sells guns and knives and tear gas. And she only wears plastic because it's easy to clean. Her husband, R.R., has a drinking problem and thinks he sees UFOs. This causes Didi so much turmoil."
"And there's the football coach," says Sears, "who is taking the Texas state teacher's exam for the third time. If he flunks it again, he's going to go into politics. The smut snatchers are holding a prayer vigil for him."
If that's not enough, there's a Christmas phantom who is running through town destroying Christmas displays, most definitely causing turmoil for Didi, and probably for the rest of the town folk. "It's been going on for years," says Sears of the Christmas-light-bashing culprit, "but this year, he is striking hard."
This means trouble for Vera. She's got the nicest Christmas display in town, naturally, since she's got so much dough. "She's got live sheep in her nativity scene," says Sears, "and she has a Christmas Hall of Fame. Bing Crosby, Natalie Wood, the Grinch ..."
And how come Sears and Williams know these crazy characters so well, you wonder? Because they play all the parts themselves -- men, women and children. "We even do the animal noises," says Williams.
Adds Sears: "It's a real conglomerate of fun!"
"A Tuna Christmas" is being performed in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater through Jan. 20. Tickets are $29.50 to $32.50 and available by calling 202-467-4600. T'S COOL BREEZE Remember "Green Onions," that groovin' organ and guitar tune that set the mood in the early '60s for a generation of pegged-panted hipsters? It was recorded by a group of house musicians at Stax records in Memphis in 1962. The quartet was sitting around in the studio, jamming while waiting for some big recording artist to show up. He never did. Meanwhile, the musicians came up with a funky R&B tune, so they decided to record it.
Once the track was laid out, the producer decided the band needed a name. The organmeister and brains behind the song was Booker T. So they decided to call the group: Booker T. and, and, and what?
"Then we looked out the window," recalls Booker T. "And there was the producer's MG parked outside. Have you ever seen one? They're tiny little cars. It's amazing how anybody could fit into one."
Booker T. & the MG's went on to make loads of soulful, rockin' R&B instrumentals in the 1960s, the kind of music that made cool cats snap their fingers. In 1969, the quartet split up when Stax records was sold to Paramount. Booker T. went on to produce Bill Withers and other soul musicians in the early '70s. About four years later, the group got back together, but broke up again in 1975, after drummer Al Jackson was killed in his house during a robbery. "I just didn't think we could go on without Al," says Booker T.
That's the way things stayed until three years ago. The remaining three -- Booker, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Duck Dunn -- decided to give it one more try. They added drummer Danny Gottlieb of New York and hit the road, playing a couple of dates here and there each month. Booker has even started writing music for a new album, to be recorded on Elektra within the next year.
"The music is still sounding good to me," says Booker of the MG's sound. "It didn't get old. Maybe," he chuckles, "it's because of the time we took off."
Booker T. and the MG's are performing at the 9:30 club Thursday night at 8 and 11. Tickets are $20 and available at Ticketron. For information call 202-638-2008.