As if anyone needed a reminder, Christmas is fast approaching.
Members of the Peninsula Players hope audiences will celebrate the season by attending their latest show.
“Uh-Oh, Here Comes Christmas,” directed by Laurie Carter, offers an off-beat look at what she describes as the season’s stress, chaos and “avalanche of commercialism.”
The play features 15 vignettes based on comic or poignant ideas from author Robert Fulghum, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister who served in Bellingham and Edmonds.
The scenes were crafted by writer-director Ernest Zulia and composer David Caldwell, who also brought Fulghum’s better known 1988 bestseller “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” to the stage. That collection of essays has been translated into 27 languages. Its subtitle, “Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things,” could apply to the Players’ show.
In one segment, a somewhat nontraditional Scrooge character sings, “Since 1843, those blasted ghosts have turned up every year and I always end up singing, dancing, giddy, full of Christmas cheer!”
For Robert Scherrer, a familiar figure onstage with the Players, the themes especially resonate.
“The playwright certainly touched on many different aspects of the holidays,” he said. “We hope to convey that to our audience with laughter, tears and true holiday spirit.”
In one sketch, his character reads a letter from a couple pledging to avoid the commercial aspects and concentrate on what is important. “I grew up not focusing on the gift giving, but spending time with family and friends,” Scherrer said.
Fellow actor Rita Smith has a couple of solo scenes and interacts with the ensemble of eight. In one comedic encounter with longtime stage collaborator Kevin Perry, they reveal what they really think about those ugly but well-intentioned gifts.
“I think it’s a wonderful season,” said Smith, a retired elementary school teacher who is prominent in the Long Beach Peninsula’s music scene. “I love Christmas music. I put it on at noon on Thanksgiving,” she said.
“I do enjoy the season. Sure, there’s going to be commercialism, but with Christmas you have to make it what you want,” Smith said.
Also onstage are more troupe veterans Ed Ahlers, Karl Johnson, Bette Lu Krause and Rose Wallace. Joining them are newcomers Evelyn Benenati and Mike Mathis.
“It’s a family friendly show,” Benenati, an Ilwaco High School senior, said. “At the read-through, some scenes actually brought tears to my eyes. There are a lot of jokes to work out.”
Carter finds the script “heartwarming.” She directed a production at Ocean Park Lutheran Church 13 years ago — well before the Players secured their current headquarters — with Johnson and Wallace on stage and Ahlers running the lights.
Smith said her husband, Kent, had been asking for them to perform it again, but the group tries not to repeat shows during any 10-year period. “We all wanted to do it,” she said.
As well as Christmas themes, the show features a handful of original songs, a celebration of the winter solstice and a wedding that sparks potential conflict between Jewish and Irish-Catholic families. Through it all, several poinsettias keep appearing to add color to the spectacle.
“It’s a challenge and a new experience,” first-time actor Mathis, who savors all the scenes, said. “They are very entertaining.”