Shakespeare meets the Silk Road in “Comedy of Errors”

From Wednesday Nov. 5 to Sunday Nov. 9, Geneseo’s department of theatre and dance will collaborate with Geneseo’s Asian-American performance ensemble GENseng in a performance of William Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors.” This performance is the first mainstage production of the 2014-2015 season. In the nature of any classic Shakespearean comedy, “Comedy of Errors” weaves a tale of mishaps, confusion, hilarity and of course, romance. Taking place in Uzbekistan, the story follows one set of identical twins––both named Antipholus––and their identical twin servants––both named Dromio––who are separated shortly after birth and unknowingly find themselves in the same city on the same day. In the confusion and conflict that ensues, they must figure out the source of all the misunderstanding. Featuring characters from all along the ancient Silk Road, the play incorporates many cultures and settings.

The production’s spin on the original play was evident. The jewel tones and bright colors that create the background reflect the opulence of ancient central Asia. “[The play] is originally set in Europe, and my character is originally called Dromio of Ephesus,” freshman Sydney Klainberg said. “In our production, we’re now from Samarkand, which is in Uzbekistan. [It’s] now set on the Silk Road and is set in a different time.”

Although there are major differences between the two versions, Klainberg described how the Geneseo production didn’t completely deviate from the original. “A lot of the themes are the same,” Klainberg said. “But the costumes are going to be different and the sets are going to be different from what you would traditionally see.”

The performance began with eight dancers filing in. Like the rest of the cast, the dancers are donned in vibrant layers of loose-fitting clothing that command attention. Another impressive element is the resemblance between the sets of twins. Makeup and costumes make the four “twin” actors look eerily similar. Aside from the eccentric costumes and bright background, there is little else on stage. One impressive element of the show is its minimal usage of props. The actors use the space around them and their interactions to convey different environments and objects.

As is typical of Shakespearean plays, particularly comedies, the acting is exaggerated and enthusiastic. As Klainberg said, “You have to understand what he’s saying and be able to portray that to the audience ... one of the most common ways that actors who are [performing] Shakespeare do that is through big hand gestures.”

Played by junior Henry DiMaria, Antipholus of Samarkand’s wife Adriana epitomizes this in a hilariously over-the-top portrayal. Adriana isn’t the only character portrayed in drag; sophomore Chase Watkins plays kitchen wench Nell in an equally unconventional performance.

Since many of the jokes might be confusing to audiences unfamiliar with Shakespearean language, there are added motions that create another layer of humor. It was clear that the actors had fun with the performance.

“I think all of us are having a really great time and we sort of formed this family,” Klainberg said. Although the jokes are often corny and not quite laugh-out-loud, the performance was entertaining from start to finish. The actors were able to keep up the fast pace and high energy throughout the entirety of the show.

With its happy and satisfying ending, the play is definitely a crowd-pleaser. If you enjoy Shakespeare or any form of theater, I recommend getting out to see “Comedy of Errors.” The actors’ constant enthusiasm keeps the show fast-paced, exciting and will certainly impress any viewer.