By Ariana Crisafulli
San Clemente residents looking for a way to celebrate the holidays can do so at the local stage, as the Cabrillo Playhouse presents A Tuna Christmas.
The play is the second in a series of comedies based in the tiny, make-believe town of Tuna, Texas. The first was Greater Tuna, and the next two to come are Red, White and Tuna and finally, Tuna Does Vegas.
A Tuna Christmas centers on Tuna’s annual Christmas Yard Display Contest. The play portrays the trivialities and rivalries in a small town (third smallest in Texas) but also adds an air of mystery in the form of a Christmas phantom out to sabotage the contest.
The characters are people who are “exactly the people you would assume reside in the third smallest town in Texas,” says Bill Peters, one of the actors in the play.
Along with the petty “heads of society,” all competing to win the Christmas yard display contest, there is also the troublemaker attempting to break probation and leave the small town, as well as minor crushes and flamboyant theater directors.
The colorful characters of the town are actually only portrayed by two actors, Bill Peters and Robert Purcell. The duo portray a cast of over 20 characters of all ages and both genders.
“For me, it’s nice to be able to explore these characters further, bringing what we know from the first show and developing them more,” Peters said.
Peters and Purcell are rejoining the cast after their previous experience in the Tuna series. They both were a part of Greater Tuna about a year and a half ago. They are portraying many of the same roles in this production.
“It’s like slipping into a favorite pair of shoes. It all comes back to you and there is no real work to be done,” Purcell said.
Of course, this time around there will be new challenges for the multifaceted actors, namely in the form of three new characters that the duo must divide and conquer.
“Those parts are tougher as they require new personalities and voices different from the rest of the characters,” says Purcell.
Part of the success of the Tuna series at the Cabrillo Playhouse is the chemistry between the two actors, which is a must when 20 roles are divided between two actors.
“Having gone through it once already, there’s a great ‘short hand’ that just takes over,” said Peters on their work together.
Purcell agreed. “Let’s put it this way, Tuna would not be the same without him, and I don’t think I would ever do it without him.”
The Cabrillo is also welcoming back director Marcelo Sandoval after a five-year absence.
Sandoval said he was overjoyed to return to the Cabrillo. “The theater feels like an old friend offering a fraternal embrace, my senses welcome it and I am defeated by a smile drawn on my face of which I cannot help but enjoy.”
The two actors are also thrilled to have Sandoval’s expertise and vision for the show. Purcell praised the director. “Marcelo is a fantastic director and has loads of enthusiasm for all he does. He has been great about removing the set design and costume worries off the actors backs during this run.”
The play opened on November 30 and will close on December 23. Sandoval said the audiences the first weekend had been very good.
“Both of them received standing ovations Friday night.”
Tickets are $20. The play goes up Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. with a weekly Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through the Cabrillo’s website at www.cabrilloplayhouse.org.