Pictured (L to R) are Zion Middleton and Tatum Langley. Photos provided.
Pictured (L to R) are Zion Middleton and Tatum Langley. Photos provided.
Mistaken identity and slapstick humor are big parts of William Shakespeare’s earliest and shortest play, “The Comedy of Errors.”

The late 16th-century play’s title has even come to mean a series of humorous or events.

Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts is bringing the comedy to Warsaw today, July 28 through Aug. 6.

Tatum Langley and Zion Middleton play one set of twins, Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus.

“In short, ‘Comedy of Errors’ is about two sets of twins and they’re separated and the whole show is pretty much about them. They end up in the same place, but they don’t know it. They keep running into the wrong twin and mistaking one for another. As you can imagine, that results in a lot of confusion with wives and friends and whatnot. The whole play is pretty much, as the title says, a comedy of errors, and a bunch of errors that happen due to the twins being in the same place and not knowing who’s who and eventually reuniting and it ends very sweetly, honestly,” Langley explained.

Middleton said the Dromio twins are servants to the other pair of twins - Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus. “And we kind of spend the whole show just running around and doing tasks for our masters, but getting confused when one master tells us one thing and then we meet the other master and they tell us to do another thing, so it’s a lot of going back and forth between the masters. For the most part, what is really interesting, is that we don’t really interact with each other - or we’re not on the stage at the same time,” he said.

Langley said they technically never see each other until the very end.

She said the Wagon Wheel production of the show is full of physical comedy.

“It’s a main focus of the style of the show, so a lot of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, sort of,” she said. “The Dromios definitely do the most of that, so we are on the floor a lot and being punched a lot, and things thrown at us. We definitely do a lot of sprinting around the theater.”

For Langley, while she’s done physical comedy before, “The Comedy of Errors” is her first Shakespeare production professionally. She was in a Shakespeare production in high school. Combining Shakespeare and physical comedy has been “really challenging but really, really rewarding,” she said.

Middleton said he’s had “quite a bit” of experience with Shakespeare, having done “Othello” and “Hamlet.”

“I did an internship at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2018, so I’m a huge Shakespeare guy. I love Shakespeare,” he said.

As for physical comedy, Middleton said he feels he’s done a lot of roles that have required it. “But combining the two - Shakespeare and physical comedy - has been a really fun challenge and experience,” he said.

Langley said the physical comedy helped her to understand the Shakespeare text more. Middleton said doing “The Comedy of Errors” has been so much fun and he’s having a great time on stage.

Whether it’s a movie, television show or a theatrical performance, audiences are often asked for a willing suspension of disbelief. Wagon Wheel’s production of “The Comedy of Errors” is no different as the two sets of twins aren’t actually played by twins.

“Both sets of twins, we don’t look alike, so, definitely, right off the bat you have to suspend your disbelief as you would plenty in theater. But I think a lot of the work we’ve done to portray twins - first of all, our costumes are very similar, both sets of twins, but slight differences,” Langley said. “... But I think for us specifically, we’ve done a lot of matching. Our physicality on stage is very similar, so the way we enter and exit, the way we run, it’s very stylized but in the same way. And I think you can say the same thing about the other set of twins.”

“The Comedy of Errors” has influenced many kinds of entertainment over the centuries since Shakespeare wrote it, and Middleton said it still holds up over 400 years later.

“I honestly do think so. ... I do think they’ll find it funny just because the things that we do are derived from commedia dell’arte, which is still what comedy is based off today, so I think the audience will still find it funny and also charming,” he said.

Langley agreed, saying, “It’s just so silly and fun and I feel that there’s something that every type of audience member will find funny, whether it be the word play and puns that Shakespeare throws in, or even just slip on a banana peel, those classic type of things.”

In the Wagon Wheel production, she said they are adding in some songs from the 1920s and 1930s, which makes the show feel less like it was written hundreds of years ago and livens it up.

“The idea is that we’re on this 1920s boardwalk, so all the wigs and costumes and music are” all from that era, Langley said. “... I think it’s really fun to add that twist to it, especially this show.”

Middleton said it fits well.

Longtime Wagon Wheel veterans Andy Robinson and Ben Dicke are co-directing “The Comedy of Errors.”

“Our directors are both so amazing with helping us out with (the show and time periods), especially with such a short rehearsal process at the Wagon Wheel. But they help us out so much, which is explaining the concept with the show and also all of the elements, I feel, help so much. We haven’t yet put on wigs and costumes, but I’ve seen them, and even like seeing them, I feel once that’s on, I’ll feel transported into the 1920s world,” Langley stated.

Middleton said he feels like the directors have done a good job of just letting them play, which is a big part of doing comedy as well as Shakespeare.

“They’re just letting us play and figure things out for ourselves, especially in regards to our two characters and how we move and speak. Because we’re never on stage at the same time, I spend a lot of time watching Tatum do her thing, and vice versa, so it’s become - without realizing it - we’ve done it together but just by watching each other,” he said.

She said there’s been a lot of giving and taking from each other to see what works and what doesn’t.

Langley said she’s enjoyed having Dicke and Robinson as directors and they balance each other out well. “I feel like they bounce ideas off of each other and play with ideas back and forth, just like we’ve been doing as actors. So it’s been really interesting to see them also exchange ideas and sort of build off of each other,” she said.

As for themes for the show, Langley said overall there’s the theme of family. “Because in the end, the whole thing is about reuniting with family and no matter how much time you have apart, you still see how you’re related and how after being separated for so long, you still have these similarities,” she said.

Another theme in the show they agreed upon was identity.

As for her identity, Langley is from Chicago but went to school at Ball State University in Muncie. She appeared in “Elf, the Musical” at the Wagon Wheel in December.

“I loved it so much, I was like, ‘I have to come back for the summer!’ So I’ve been here for all the shows this summer,” she said.

Middleton originally is from Georgia, but goes to school in North Carolina at Elon University. This summer has been his first time not only at the Wagon Wheel but also to Indiana.

“I’ve had a lovely experience and I’ve seen some really beautiful parts of the country that I’ve never seen before,” he said.

Tickets for “The Comedy of Errors” is available at the Wagon Wheel box office or online at https://www.wagonwheelcenter.org/.