Let’s Review: Old Globe’s Merchant of Venice engages with reflection
By Diana Saenger
The Old Globe continues its 2013 Shakespeare Festival with “The Merchant of Venice” directed by Adrian Noble. The play has long had its fans and critics; still, its tale of greed, romance, forbearance and religious intolerance continues to provide a good base for classic actors while engaging its audience in thought and speculation about its contradictions.
The huge cast does its job of delivering both laughs in the lighter moments, while raising the hairs on your arms in the darker. Once again, The Globe delivers entertainment along with introspection.
In addition to its exploration of usury, there’s a double romance in this Venetian tale.
As stipulated in her father’s will, heiress Portia (Krystel Lucas) must face a series of suitors who must choose one of three small caskets to find her portrait inside their first choice to win her hand. Bassanio (Lucas Hall), a gentleman below her status, is determined to win but lacks the cash needed to make the trip to her town. He asks to borrow the money from Antonio (Donald Carrier), who suggests they approach the Jewish moneylender Shylock (Miles Anderson).
Shylock is not fond of Antonio, as he has ridiculed Jews many times, but greed pushes Shylock to lend Bassanio the ducats he needs. However, instead of interest, should the loan default, Shylock demands a pound of Antonio’s flesh.
Lucas hams it up as Portia, pacing behind the men on hand to open a casket. Her facial expressions belie whom she hopes finds the portrait. When Bassanio arrives and has his turn at the caskets, it’s clear he’s the one Portia wants. When he finds the portrait, Portia rewards him with her ring, which she removes and makes him promise never to remove.
The other romance is between the Christian lothario, Lorenzo (Adam Gerber), and Jessica (Winslow Corbett), the daughter of the miserly, frowned-upon Shylock.
When Shylock learns that Jessica has run away with Lorenzo and also stolen his money and precious jewels, he’s beside himself. He forsakes his perceptive and driven nature turning into a screaming, angry man out for revenge at any cost. Anderson is spot-on in this performance, just as he is as Bottom in the other Globe Summer Shakespeare Festival production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
It’s a double fate when Shylock ends up in court.
There’s a lot to follow in this production. Is Shylock a callous villain or a victim of anti-Semitism and its outreach? Can one’s identity become one’s own worst enemy? How far does one go to collect on a bond? What mysterious part does not one ring, but two, play in this tale?
My question is how did Shakespeare ever come up with this story?
—‘The Merchant of Venice’ plays matinees, evenings to Sept. 28 at Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park. Tickets from $29. (619) 23-GLOBE. theOldGlobe.org
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