Greg Santoro has sat in the director’s seat half a dozen times. And while the action on the stage is always different, his goal with each Island Players’ production remains the same.
“There’s so much divisiveness in the world today. I just want to offer them an escape,” he said.
That respite can come in a variety of forms — from serious dramas to musicals. Of course, there’s also comedy. But Santoro, like many others in the biz, is quick to point out that getting a laugh is much more difficult to pull off.
“I think it’s 10 times tougher (than drama). There are a lot of things you just can’t teach — comedic timing, nuance and innuendo. You have to have a cast that’s able to do it,” he said.
Luckily, Santoro’s latest venture has just that. For the production, “Drop Dead!” by Billy Van Zandt, he assembled a group that has that spark. Since they started rehearsal, the cast has brought the story to life, often erupting into fits of laughter while exchanging lines.
“We are a close troupe, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been filled with laughter. The rehearsals have been crazy but so much fun. I think that comes across too,” he said. “We also break the fourth wall to get the audience involved.”
The show itself is about a play, which brings a bunch of washed-up actors together to try to revitalize their careers. While portraying a murder mystery onstage, the group actually ends up facing a real-life murder while they push on.
“It’s a show that I fell in love with a long time ago. The first time I was involved in it, it was 2004. It was so funny and the audience loved it. I had a lot of fun doing it,” he said.
“The playwright re-tooled it to make it more modern and updated some of the jokes. He changed some of the names of shows and changed some of the jokes so that they work a little better. But essentially, it’s the same play.”
That includes a bit of adult humor and a lot of outlandish situations.
“I’d say it’s PG-13. My kids have watched the rehearsals, and they love it. You just really have to see the show to get a taste of it. It’s a murder-mystery but also a comedy. And it’s a play within a play,” he said.
“Drop Dead,” will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Friday with another show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. There will be a 3 p.m. matinee Sunday at the Casino theater on St. Simons Island. Shows will continue at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10 and 11 then at 3 p.m. Jan. 12. The final round of performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 and 18 with a 3 p.m. show Jan. 19.
For his part, Santoro can’t wait for the curtain to rise. It will be a first in that he is not only directing but also performing.
“I play Brent Reynolds who then plays the young Lord Alexander Barrington. He’s this Shakespearean actor,” he said. “Of course, the reason I’m able to do that is because I have a great assistant director in Laurie Willis. She’s been amazing. She’s been my eyes while I’m on the stage and has been very insightful.”
Santoro hopes the community will come out to support the cast as they start their run. Not only will audience-goers get the satisfaction of knowing that they helped buoy the arts, they will also receive a night of mindless entertainment in exchange.
“We are really excited to do this. There’s no message in this other than ‘have fun.’ It’s two hours of escaping into mindless fun,” he said. “If you’re into laughing and ridiculous comedy, this is the show for you.”