After part-time St. Simons resident Richard Elichuk helped direct a play a few years ago, he received what he said was the best compliment he’s ever gotten in his 40-plus years of directing theatre.
“After the show is over, some people stand outside the theater and tell you how wonderful you are, and this little old lady came up and said, ‘We love what you do because it makes us laugh,’” he said.
That simple thought, he explained, is the goal every time The Island Players, St. Simons’ all-volunteer theatre company, performs a comedy or farce, such as the upcoming “A Comedy of Tenors.”
Ken Ludwig’s classic farce “Lend Me a Tenor” was published in 1986, almost 30 years before its sequel, “A Comedy of Tenors,” hit stages, and both are textbook examples of farces, Elichuk explained. He said that the tenets of farces and comedies make for good performances, especially with The Island Players’ usual audience.
“You’ve got mistaken identity, physical comedy, irreverence,” he said. “It all has to be fun — we’re not getting paid, so it has to be fun, which doesn’t just involve ‘ha-ha,’ but putting on a good performance.”
Island Players regulars Kyle Price and Jackie Santoro play “feisty” Italian husband and wife duo Tito and Maria Morello in “A Comedy of Tenors,” characters which require a great deal of physicality, according to the pair.
“There’s a lot of fast-paced dialogue and physical comedy, and that’s where the difficulty could come on,” Santoro said. “Not letting your adrenaline get ahead of what you’re saying — but it’s so much fun.”
Ludwig may have nailed the timelessness of farcical comedy, but he couldn’t have predicted how the act of going to a theater and watching a live performance is in danger of being overshadowed by technology and instant gratification, Elichuk said.
“People would rather stay home and watch TV or play on their phones,” he said. “We live in a society where everything’s instantaneous. You wanna find something out? You press a button and there it is. Theatre allows you to come and to think.”
Price echoed this sentiment, saying the audience-actor connection is an element of theatre that both parties benefit from.
“There’s so much more of a personal touch that you have with the audience,” he said. “When they’re up there seeing you versus something that they can hit rewind on – this is something you have to dedicate some time to.”
Overall, Santoro said, “A Comedy of Tenors” is a play that society needs right now.
“This allows you to escape from real life. It’s mindless,” she said. “You don’t have to come in and think about anything. It’s a two-hour break from life, you get to watch something that you actually enjoy.”
The show is no Shakespearean or Edward Albee-penned tragedy, Price said — but maybe that’s what makes it accessible.
“You don’t have to love theatre, you don’t have to get all teary-eyed,” he said. “It’s a soap opera and ‘Saturday Night Live’ rolled up in one.”