Ramona Hillside Players delight ‘A Christmas Tuna’ audience

Ramona Hillside Players actors Brad West, left, plays Bertha Bumiller and Josh Somers plays Jody Bumiller in this scene from “A Christmas Tuna,” at the Ramona Hillside Playhouse in Hemet Friday, Jan. 24. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

The Ramona Hillside Players, with a two-actor, 22-character stage play, “A Tuna Christmas,” delighted those attending the Friday. Jan. 17, presentation in the 93-seat Ramona Hillside Playhouse, 27402 Ramona Bowl Road, in Hemet.

Theatergoers were not disappointed with the comedic presentations of actors Brad West and Josh Somers who did an amazing job of quick costume changes, voice makeovers and characterizations of the many fictional Tuna, Texas, multiple characters in the play.

Laughter rang out many times as the comedy, written by Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, with director Frank Siebke, played out from the near capacity crowd that evening.

The owners of The Tastee Kream drive-in in Tuna, Texas, as portrayed by actors Brad West and Josh Somers, delight in their victory over Vera Carp in the radio station OKKK sponsored Christmas Yard Display Contest during the Ramona Hillside Players production of “A Tuna Christmas,” Jan. 14. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

The play, a sequel to the earlier “Greater Tuna” play presented by the players, takes place in the third-smallest town in Texas, with radio station OKKK sponsoring an annual hometown Christmas light lawn display. The contest that for the past 13 years has always been won by one resident, Vera Carp, played by Somers, until a phantom, who is actually two local older ladies with walkers and again played by the two actors, strikes the Carp display, leading to a win by two other women superbly played by Somers and West. The two actors, with many costume and voice changes pulled off the characterizations of many other colorful Tuna denizens like Didi Snavelt’s owner of a used guns and ammo shop by Somers and Aunt Pearl by West.

West and Somers are no strangers to the Ramona Hillside Players starring in many other productions like “Vintage Hitchcock” and “Inherit the Wind.” Many of their roles include playing more than one character, but none more challenging than the 11 characters each, both male and female, they play in “A Tuna Christmas.”

West after the show, still in his stage dress and removing two filled socks representing “boobies” laughed saying he needed a rest after the two-hour show. Asked if playing the 11 characters was a challenge, he said, “Oh yeah. To keep ‘em all different and remember who you are supposed to be when you go onstage…yeah, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Somers said the many roles played are a challenge, “but you get used to doing it, after doing theater for so many years you can pull out some old tricks you had up your sleeve for the shows.”

Somers is no stranger to the theater where he has played “Othello” for the Inland Stage Company, in Temecula’s Shakespeare in the Vines as LaVache, the clown, in a “All’s Well that Ends Well,” and in the musical as Senex in MSJC’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

West returns to the Ramona Hillside Players stage in “A Tuna Christmas” after six-year off stage where he once directed and played in many other local productions there and in other theater companies in the Valley, like the Sempre Gumbi Theater Company where he played in the “Laramie Project” and Eddie McCuen in “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.”

The play was scheduled for two more performances at the RHP and then other roles may await at the playhouse’s future presentations in March and May. “Come Blow Your Horn,” written by Neil Simons and directed by Matt Riggle will be presented March 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22. “Leading Ladies” written by Ken Ludwick and directed by Sarah Gibbon will be presented at the RHP May 8, 9, 10,15, 16 and 17 with auditions scheduled for March 16-17.

Bob Norman was the stage manager and assistant director for “A Tuna Christmas,” assisted by the backstage crew of Janet Fulton, Judi Phares, Judy Soto, Raul Soto and Elin Ruiz.

The Ramona Hillside Players at the playhouse can be reached at www.ramonahillsideplayers.org or by calling (951) 658-5300. Tickets for the live onstage performances at $15 each and can be purchased online or at the playhouse. Reservations are recommended.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.