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February 7, 2013

On Stage: More ‘Tuna’ on New Castle Playhouse menu

NEW CASTLE — New Castle is once again home to Tuna, Texas, this weekend.

The mythical fifth-smallest town in Texas is populated by a wide variety of strange, funny, and even bizarre small town folks.

Tuna, Texas, was the subject of last season’s highly acclaimed and well-received “Greater Tuna,” which played at the New Castle Playhouse’s Annex Theater, drawing large crowds and generating much fanfare. Tuna is back on the same stage for the sequel “Tuna Christmas.”

Playhouse veterans Alan McCreary of New Castle and Jeffry Hall of Center Township once again will star in the production and play all 22 characters featured in the latest installment of life in Tuna. Rounding out the show’s ensemble is Peggy Hanna of Laurel, who again directs the round of the Tuna saga.

“The big theme every year for the past 14 years is Tuna’s big contest for the best Christmas display,” Hanna explains. “Vera has won for 14 consecutive years. If she wins again this year, the trophy will be retired.

“This show reveals much more about the families of Tuna, as well as introducing several new characters. Some things continue from the original show, but this show stands alone,” Hanna said. “You did not have to see the first one to understand or enjoy this one.”

For both Hall and McCreary, returning to Tuna has been quite a thrill. Each actor takes on 11 separate roles, ranging from the dimwitted town sheriff to the cranky old lady who is the city secretary, and from the waitresses at the Tasty Cream Restaurant to even one of the family dogs. Hall plays three new characters, plus eight returning from the original production while McCreary portrays five new Tuna residents, rounding out his performance with six returning characters.

“It’s a challenge for any actor to pull off 11 different characters in one evening.” Hall says. To do it convincingly is an even bigger challenge. Yet McCreary and Hall succeed in doing just that.

“It was a lot of fun last year, and even more fun this time,” Hall said. The characters are caricatures of real life.”

“They all have fun stuff to say and do. They are very real. Go to any small town and you’ll find these people,” McCreary adds.

The biggest question on everyone’s minds is “Why a Christmas show in February?”

Hanna is prepared with an answer. “This is a momentous year in Tuna, Texas. They have been promoting and touring their Christmas Trophy all over the country on a special tour, so people could see the trophy before it was retired. It took a little time for them to get to New Castle with that tour,” she said, with a wink and knowing smile.

The real story seems to be that this was the slot in which “Greater Tuna” made its successful debut last season and the slot seemed a perfect fit for Tuna to return this year.

“Why not have a Christmas show in February? It’s still winter,” McCreary said.

“Besides, it’s not really a ‘Christmas’ show anyway. The story takes place during Christmas, but it’s not a Christmas show.” Hall adds.

“Tuna Christmas” opens at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the annex theater.




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