Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"The Merchant of Venice"

William Shakespeare's play "The Merchant of Venice" is a play that is rarely performed but it is one of my favorite of his plays (I know I have said that about other plays).

I don't know whether to class it a comedy or a drama because both are equally displayed throughout the play. It is also considered anti-Semitic, but in every version I have seen, I think the "Christians" come out looking worse than Shylock the Jew ever does. In fact I have yet to see a production of it where I haven't felt sorry for Shylock and the treatment that he recieves from the supposed Christians who don't behave very Christian-like to him.

The story is set in two locations, Venice and Belmont Italy. Bassanio wants to court the beautiful and rich Portia but doesn't have the money, so he asks his friend, Antonio if he can borrow it. Antonio, who doesn't have the ready cash, but will within 2 months time, goes to Shylock to get a loan. The terms of the loan repayment are that if not paid within the 3 month time period he, Antonio will owe Shylock "a pound of flesh". As with most of WS's plays, you have other sub-plots going on, but the main one that explains Shylock's dispare and vengeful attitude is the loss of a daughter, who leaves him and his faith, becomes a Christian to marry the man she loves.

Jared Sakren, the Artistic Director for the Southwest Shakespeare Co., is excellent in his protrayal of Shylock. Not only did he act the part he also directed the play along with Richard Baird. Kaitlin O'Neal and Richard Baird are also excellent in their roles as Portia and Bassanio, and David Loar plays the other title role of Antonio, who is the merchant of Venice. In fact, the entire cast is exceptional, and it is a large cast. Click on the link below to see a promotional clip of the program.
I highly recommend you see this production if you are in the Phoenix, Arizona area during it's run.