Comedy and confusion reign supreme in this year's Shakespeare in the Park performance in Geneva.
The Midsummer Theater Troupe will perform "The Comedy of Errors" at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 20, on the stage at Island Park. Admission to Shakespeare in the Park is free; a $5 donation is suggested. Free parking is available in public lots near the park, as well as the Government Center on First Street.
This is one of Shakespeare's great comedy plays that centers on mix-ups and witty dialogue. The characters include two sets of twins, Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse. Dromio of Ephesus is the slave of Antipholus of Ephesus, and Dromio of Syracuse is the slave of Antipholus of Syracuse. Antipholus of Ephesus is unaware that he has a twin brother, Antipholus of Syracuse. And Dromio of Ephesus is unaware that he also has a twin brother, Dromio of Syracuse. Farcical mix-ups occur when all the twins meet in Ephesus. The themes of the play are reality, time, coincidence and love.
The performance is condensed to 90 minutes, and features slapstick humor appropriate for all ages.
"It will be very fun for the whole family, as always," said Toni Hix, artistic director of Midsummer Theatre Troupe. "It will be a fast-paced show filled with bewildered characters who don't realize they are always talking to the wrong twin."
Because "The Comedy of Errors" is one of Shakespeare's earliest comedies, it is filled with sight gags audiences can relate to, she added.
Although the twins are identical, they have vastly different personalities and mannerisms, said Vic Portincaso, who plays Dr. Pinch, a comic conjurer. To keep track of them, it will be important for the audience to watch the characters as they come onstage to understand who is who.
Kristen Duerdoth, one of the core members of the troupe, plays Adriana of Ephesus, wife to Dromio, one of the twins.
"She is a very jealous woman and has no problem letting everyone know including her husband," Duerdoth said. Even Adriana doesn't realize the man she is talking to is not her husband, but his twin.
"What makes this play so funny is the mistaken identities. It creates confusion, havoc and mayhem in the town. Will the audience figure out who's who?"
The troupe strives to have something for everyone in its shows, Duerdoth said.
"Toni (Hix) keeps the plays short and then adds lots of action and music so that even small children enjoy the show."
In 2012 the performance was moved to Third Street in Geneva while a new north bridge was being constructed at the park. This year, the event returns to its home in Island Park.
It's the perfect setting for the event, according to Portincaso, who is also a Geneva Cultural Arts Commissioner and Shakespeare in the Park founder.
Located on the Fox River, the park, with its mature trees and peaceful setting, is an inviting venue. The intent was to create a Ravinia-style atmosphere, Portincaso said.
"We want patrons to enjoy a pleasant summer evening by the water in a quiet setting, sharing a picnic with family and friends."
To that end, patrons are encouraged to arrive at 5 p.m. and picnic in the park. Blankets and chairs are a must; over the years audience members have created elaborate picnic settings by bringing their own tables, chairs, meals and even candles.
For those who don't want to pack a picnic, Stockholm's will sell sandwiches, bottled water and soft drinks, chips and homemade root beer. Graham's will sell its homemade ice cream bars that can be customized with various toppings.
The Geneva Public Library will add to the fun by offering patrons the opportunity to pose for a picture with The Bard, in addition to a free lip balm giveaway.
Leading off the performance will be two dance pieces by State Street Dance Studio dancers -- a character dance from the ballet Don Quixote and a jazz dance titled "Sparkling Diamonds" from Moulin Rouge -- under the direction of Linda Cunningham, founder and artistic director of the dance studio.
The Midsummer Theatre Troupe is now in its 15th season as a mobile theater company that brings Shakespeare to Kane and DuPage County audiences every summer.
And after a decade and a half, Hix creatively puts a new spin on each year's performance.
"I think the productions look fresh because every year I find something else to inspire me," she said. "One year it was a trip to Hawaii, then it was seeing a Cirque show in Las Vegas."
Hix drew her inspiration for this year's play from her first trip to a Renaissance Faire last summer, where she admired the elaborate period costumes.
"All characters will be dressed up as if they were going to the Faire," she said.
New this year will be an actor onstage supplying sound effects and music between scenes, Duerdoth noted. "He jumps into the action when he feels he is needed -- it is very funny at times."
Performing in outdoor venues can be challenging but the troupe embraces it.
"When you are outside with a large audience, everything has to be big -- the bigger the better," said Duerdoth, who, in addition to acting in the play, also serves as assistant director and co-producer. "Bright costumes, silly characters, goofy songs, lots of physical comedy -- oh, and swords -- it's just not Shakespeare without swords!"
For details, call (630) 938-4530 or visit www.genevarts.org.