Open a can of laughs with ‘Tuna’ – MCT’s latest production opens next week - Geoffrey Horne et al. that are standing in a room - Tartan
John Schaefer, left, and Mike Chaplin reprise their roles in the “Tuna” play series. “Greater Tuna” opens on Thursday, Nov. 14 at Marathon Community Theatre. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

There are four plays in the ‘Tuna” series. The one opening next week — “Greater Tuna” — at Marathon Community Theatre is actually the prequel to the one performed in the 2014-2015 season, “Tuna Christmas.”

It’s going to be easy to follow along, though. John Schaefer and Michael Chaplin are reprising their roles. Oh, and Marilyn Tempest will direct the duo again. But is it REALLY a duo? Together the men play more than 20 characters throughout the night. The dressers behind the curtain play an important role — ripping the costumes off and stuffing the actors into new ones before they dash back onto stage.

Chaplin — no, he’s not descended of the Marathon branch — hails from Texas, among other places. The “Tuna” series is incredibly popular in the Lone Star state. So popular, in fact, that the play was performed at the White House when George H. W. Bush was president.

Chaplin said of the decision to bring the series to Marathon, “That will teach me to open my mouth at a party!”

Apparently, he started quoting the play verbatim while seated next to Tempest. The rest is history in the making. The show opens on Thursday, Nov. 14 and runs weekends (Thursday to Saturday) through Dec. 7. The curtain is at 8 p.m. except on the day of the only matinee on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 3 p.m.

The plot is based — ahem, loosely — around two radio commentators and the parade of citizens who drop by the studio: football coach, humane society rep, essay winner, etc.

“There are a couple of recurring jokes that the audience just loves,” said Tempest, “like the guy that claims to have seen a UFO. But the message from Petey Fisk, the guy from the humane society, is actually heartfelt. He cares a lot about the animals.”

Schaefer will slip in and out of the roles with ease.

“I have no idea how many times I’ve appeared on the MCT stage. I guess … often? More than 20 times?” he said, then looking over to Chaplin and dead-panning, “but this time I don’t get to grab your butt!”

To purchase tickets, call the box office at 305-743-0994 or visit Tickets are $25 each.

Director: Marilyn Tempest
Assistant Director: Mike Wagner
Producer: Diane Dashevsky
Stage manager: Christine Leird
Set director: Karen Diehl
Lights: Alex Rickert
… and many “dressers!”

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