DAG’s ‘Drop Dead’ opens Friday at Out of the Box Theatre

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Gary Regal (third from left) of Wyandotte as megalomaniac director Victor LePewe listens to Rob Eagel (right) of Trenton as Sol Weisenheimer while Kayla Aue (left) of Gibraltar as Candy Apples and James Taylor Jr. of Lincoln Park as Phillip wait for the play within a play to resume in the Downriver Actors Guild production of “Drop Dead,” a murder mystery comedy running two weekends, April 12 to 20, at Out of the Box Theatre, 1165 Ford Ave. in Wyandotte.

“Drop Dead,” described by the Downriver Actors Guild as a murder mystery comedy, opens Friday at Out of the Box Theatre, 1165 Ford Ave. in Wyandotte, for a two-weekend run.

When actors hope to revive their careers with a murder mystery play directed by a megalomaniac director and hindered by a tight budget, people start to exit early as murder upstages the dress rehearsal and continues throughout the opening performance.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. April 12, 13, 19 and 20, and 3 p.m. April 14. Tickets are $12 for adults, with a $10 rate for students and seniors. Group rates are available. To order, call 313-303-5269 or go to www.downriveractorsguild.net.

The cast includes Gary Regal of Wyandotte as Victor LePewe, Rob Eagal of Trenton as Sol Weisenheimer, and James Taylor Jr. of Lincoln Park as Phillip the first weekend, with Denny Connors of Allen Park performing the role the second weekend.

Michael Fay of Taylor portrays playwright Alabama Miller, while Carol-Ann Black of Southgate plays Mona Monet and John Sartor of Canton Townshipplays Brent Reynolds.

Others in the cast include Tony Primeau of Southgate as Chaz Looney, Kayla Aue of Gibraltar as Candy Apples, Loretta Bullock of Southgate as Constance Crawford and Craig Carrico of Detroit as Dick Shalit.

Director Lucinda Chavez said she opted to direct the show because she feels she has a good instinct for farces and comedic timing.

“It’s a laugh at every rehearsal,” Chavez said, “so how can you not have a good time directing a farce?”

She predicts that audiences will enjoy the same humor that gets the cast and crew laughing during each rehearsal.

She said the two-hour farce moves at a fast pace.

Assistant director Mellissa Lheureux of Lincoln Park said she encourages friends and family to see the show by telling them about the show’s talented cast.

“Comedy is very difficult,” Lheureux said. “You ask any actor and they are going to say that dramatic is easy, comedy is hard. But this cast actually gets the comedy. They can anticipate the lines coming in for their cues. And it’s not even so much of the physical comedy — it’s the actual deliverance of the lines which makes this cast so special.”

Because the show employs the device of a play within a play, intentional technical gaffs provide some of the humor.

Lheureux said spotlights that come on and off at the correct and incorrect times definitely add to the laughter, as do the fictional troupe of actors trying to revive their careers with a dubious director and a sub-par script.

“I think that everybody’s going to laugh and they’re going to think it’s hysterical,” Lheureux said. “I know we do. With Lucinda (Chavez) at the helm and such a talented cast, you can’t go wrong.”

Eagal, who plays Weisenheimer, the fictional show’s producer, describes his character as a lecherous cheapskate who runs around yelling at people, and who has a lascivious interest in the character Candy Apples.

He said he tells potential patrons that “Drop Dead” is a goofy show with a PG-13 rating.

Eagal said he finds it amusing to watch the different theater caricatures come to life on their stage during rehearsals.

“We’ve got prima donnas and egos just like in real life,” Eagal said. “It’s great!”

Sartor, who plays an actor with an inflated ego, said he also enjoys watching the stereotypical theater types come to life during rehearsals.

“I think that anybody who has done theater can relate to at least one experience in a show that they’ve done where they’ve worked with exactly that person that’s over the top, whether they’re super-arrogant or high-maintenance or whatever it happens to be,” Sartor said. “That’s why it’s so funny, because once in a while it’s, ‘Oh my God. That reminds me of so-and-so.’”

Sartor said theater people will enjoy the show’s humor even more than those unfamiliar with its idiosyncrasies because they can relate to the humor.

“The general public will see all the screwups before opening night and (on) opening night,” Sartor said. “It obviously has a lot of fun things going on.”

He said “Drop Dead” is similar to Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off.”

“It’s very much like that,” Sartor said. “(There’s) the same speed — and Lucinda has just made things move really well.”

Regal said as soon as he started reading the script for “Drop Dead” it made him laugh, and when his friends read it they enjoyed it as well.

“They were laughing hysterically, so I figured well, anything that’s that funny I want to be a part of,” Regal said. “It’s a very funny show and I think that people will be entertained.”

Taylor said he describes the show to his friends as a play-within-a-play murder-mystery comedy.

“That intrigues them,” Taylor said, “because that’s so many things in one.”