There are easily 1,001 reasons why Geneseo students, staff, and anybody else around should go enjoy Arabian Nights this week at the Alice Austen Theatre. The hard work and dedication of the students involved and Leah Garland, the director, shines throughout the whole piece. It's a beautiful take on a classic story, written originally by Mary Zimmerman and her original cast, and it's brought to life again by Garland and company.
Anyone planning on going to see Dr. Randy Kaplan's companion show, The Grey Zone, should know that this is the lighter piece. Arabian Nights has very serious tones to it, and even sometimes is very sad. The opening itself is a good representation of that. After the words "The Thousand and One Arabian Nights" are projected onto the curtain, the show opens with all the actors calling out at once the story of Shahryar (junior Daniel Fenaughty) a king who found his wife in a slave's arms, killed her, and for three years wed a different virgin each night, made love to her, then killed her in the morning. The women in the opening scene represent some of the wives of Shahryar in this scene, begging for their lives before he slits them open. It is a disturbing scene, ever without any sort of "blood." Upon finding out all the women have fled the kingdom, Shahryar ordered his servant Wazir (sophomore Daniel Carroll) to bring one of his daughters to him. Thus enters Scheherezade (senior Diane Elizabeth Jenkins), who began to execute a cleverly crafted plan to keep herself alive and save the women of the kingdom by telling Shahryar stories. The stories were humorous, moral, sad and happy. The entire play was a series of stories within stories. The actors told the audience a tale, the characters in that story told other characters stories, and the characters within that story told stories to the other characters.
A great deal of the play was molded thanks to the students. "They wrote their own songs and made up their own dances," said Garland. One of the most challenging aspects to the show was the fact that each actor had to take on several different roles throughout the play. Each of these roles were unique, so sometimes within seconds the students had to be a completely different person. These changes came virtually seamlessly and each unique character came through loud and clear- a credit to the talents of the actors.
One of the most interesting moments in the play was when there were three or four stories going on at once as Scheherezade counted off "On the 991st night she said... On the 992nd night she said..." The audience could catch parts of each story being told, but never all of them at once, making it a very beautiful montage.
Arabian Nights celebrates love and life, the cleverness of women, and how kindness and generosity can make any heart, even the most cold and jaded, warm up once more. It is a credit to Garland and her cast that they were able to make such a wonderful show.