Playing an eccentric family of cigar makers, members of Trinity Theatre took the stage Friday, Feb. 20, for the opening night of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Anna in the Tropics.”

When the play begins, a newly hired lector reads Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” to the workers in the cigar factory. The events of the novel then begin to actually unfold in the workers’ lives.

“There are so many different parallels between all of the characters in the play and those in the novel,” said Tristan Harness, a first year. “But I think the most interesting part is when the characters realize that they are real enough to where they know that they can’t live in that fantasy world. It’s where they differ from the characters in ‘Anna Karenina’  that makes it so interesting.”

First produced in 2003, “Anna in the Tropics” is fairly new to the theatre scene. Roberto Prestigiacomo, associate professor of human communication and theatre and director of the production, has a special connection to the play.

“It was first commissioned by a theatre company in Florida, and that was the same company that gave me my first professional job,” Prestigiacomo said. “So I know the theatre and the people who developed this play. I’ve been interested in bringing it to Trinity.”

The play centers around a Cuban family living in the year 1929.

“I was really glad to be a part of this production because I think the story is something that really needs to be told,” said Rebekah Williams, a junior. “It’s about modernity versus progress, technology, the importance of the family and the Cuban culture.”

In addition to learning about the culture, cast members also had the unique experience of learning how to roll cigars.

“We started with prop leaves, just to get in the habit of rolling while saying our lines at the same time,” Williams said. “Two weeks ago, we got in the actual tobacco. It’s very habitual once you understand what you’re doing.”

Throughout the play, the actors frequently produce finished cigars after going through each step of the cigar-rolling process.

“One of my favorite things is how authentic we make everything, by using the real, actual tobacco leaves,” Harness said. “We eat real food on stage and we drink real coffee; we make the performance as authentic as possible. I think it brings a certain level of accessibility and tangibility to the story and characters.”

“Anna in the Tropics” will finish out its second week of performances with an 8 p.m. curtain time on Friday, Feb. 27, and Saturday, Feb. 28. Tickets are $6 for students and are available at the box office.