Those visiting Marathon Community Theatre in the coming weeks should consider bringing a pencil and notepad. They just might need it.
Why? Because over the span of two hours, the two stars of MCT’s “Greater Tuna” will use a whirlwind of costume changes to adopt the personas of an astounding 10 characters … each.
Directed by Marilyn Tempest and starring John Schaefer and Michael Chaplin, “Greater Tuna” is a follow-up to MCT’s 2014 production of “A Tuna Christmas” with mostly the same cast and crew. Set in the small town of Tuna, Texas, the show features many of the same beloved characters from the first production along with a few new ones. From used-weapons saleswoman Didi Snavely to brooding housewife Bertha Bumiller and humane society “puppy-pusher” Petey Fisk, the show offers an (only-slightly-exaggerated) commentary on small-town life in Texas.
Tempest could not speak more highly of her returning cast, stating unequivocally, “I would not have done this show if they were not willing to. They bring a joy to the characters. Not everyone would put themselves out there like that, but they both do.”
At this point, Schaefer has literally lost count of how many times he has taken the stage at MCT. But in taking on 10 roles in a single show, he says the physical personas of each are key to helping him switch gears each time he walks on stage. “The new characters (that weren’t in Tuna Christmas) are the hardest for me. I wanted them to be completely different from the ones that are on stage all the time. I try to give each one a different mannerism. For instance, when I’m Charlene I try to always walk pigeon-toed, or when I’m Jody I think about what it was like to be a kid.” Chaplin offers a bit more of a no-nonsense approach. “Every time I walk offstage, I ask my dressers, ‘Where do I go, and who am I?’ As soon as they say it, I’ve got the character in my head.”
From the opening curtain to the final bows, the play is a revolving door of hilariously ridiculous characters. Entertaining musical selections keep the audience engaged during brief scene changes, and the show manages to take advantage of MCT’s revamped LED lighting system. The set design is minimalist but effective, as the actors and their pantomimed props successfully capture the audience’s attention.
As Chaplin stated, crowds coming to see “Greater Tuna” can look forward to an evening of hilarity poking fun at small-town life, something to which Marathon residents can certainly relate. “I lived in a place called Cut N Shoot, Texas. The people in Cut N Shoot were these people. They exist!” And, as he reminded this reporter, “This play is a farce. Some people look at it like, ‘You can’t say this or you can’t say that.’ It’s a send-up. Enjoy it and have fun with it.”
This is the final weekend of “Greater Tuna,” with shows on Dec. 5-7. The curtain is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available by visiting www.marathontheater.org or calling the box office at 305-743-0994.