Tuna Christmas

‘A Tuna Christmas’ radio hosts Arles Struvie (Jeremy Glenn, left) and Thurston Wheelis (Sam Smith, right) crack up over a story in the upcoming RRT production. It will start at 7:30 p.m. today.

It’s not often that a Robidoux Resident Theatre show can be compared to a marathon. But when two actors are playing more than 20 characters, it seems to be a fitting contrast.

“I think audiences come to see if they can make it through the whole thing,” director Nino Casisi said.

Performing “A Tuna Christmas,” actors Jeremy Glenn and Sam Smith play everyone from bumbling hillbillies to hardened law enforcement officers to old ladies, sometimes within a few minutes of each other.

“(Smith) has one scene where there’s five different characters. He goes from a woman to a man to a woman to a sheriff to Ike,” Casisi said.

Taking place in the small town of Tuna, Texas, “A Tuna Christmas” follows the wild, comical times of the local yokels, including radio hosts Thurston Wheelis (Smith) and Arles Struvie (Glenn). It will be performed at the Ruby Theater, 615 S. 10th St., starting at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

A Yuletide version of the popular “Tuna” series, “A Tuna Christmas” sticks to what the comedic franchise is known for: Putting its talented actors through the ringer in often hilarious, uncomfortable situations.

For both Smith and Glenn, it was a challenge they both were looking forward to facing.

“You are constantly in motion and your brain is constantly going to the next thing because in 15 seconds, you’re switching to a brand new person,” Smith said.

Each actors plays about 10 characters, whose accents can range from a deep South drawl to a high-pitched New York accent, depending on the scene. While they both felt they had the skills to pull it off, it took some digging to find those voices.

“For me at least, I knew I had a slight vision of where I wanted to go with each character. But then .... as you rehearse and develop, each character gets more well-defined,” Glenn said.

The same goes for the duo’s comedic chemistry and timing. Both have to be on their toes to make sure they’re able to pick up each other’s lines and improvise when someone has a difficult costume change backstage.

“As you’re working together and you’re listening to each other and you’re hearing their voice coming through and their vocal pattern, it helps you figure out what you’re going to do comedically,” Smith said.

While Casisi and the “Tuna” duo have been busy rehearsing all week to an empty theater, they look forward to the shift in dynamic and their timing when a roaring audience is in the theater.

“I’m excited for the energy. I think that will help and give us more onstage to work with. You never know when they’re going to laugh,” Glenn said.

When that marathon of a show ends for the day, they both expect to be feeling those endorphins from the laughs and cheers.

“It’s definitely a runner’s high and then you go home and you crash,” Glenn said, laughing.

Smith added: “You’re like ‘Woo-hoo!’ when you’re done. Then you get home and there’s nothing left in the tank.”

“A Tuna Christmas” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 29 and 30, and Dec. 13 and 14, and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1 and 15. Tickets are $17 to $43 and available by calling 816-232-1778 or at rrtstjoe.org. It contains some profanity and mature themes.

Andrew Gaug can be reached

at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNOWGaug