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The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 2853

SHOWING : June 27, 2008 - August 02, 2008



DECIDE FOR YOURSELF...who’s right, who’s wrong? This Shakespearean courtroom drama puts religion, money, justice, and mercy on trial, but the story is ultimately one of love – and what you are willing to sacrifice in its pursuit. Bassanio, a suitor longing for the love of the alluring Portia, borrows money from his friend Antonio – the merchant who has struck a deal with the money lender, Shylock. Discover what happens when Antonio’s ships are lost at sea and he cannot repay his debt. Will Shylock succeed in obtaining his unyielding demand of a “pound of flesh,” or will mercy prevail and love reign in the end.

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The Quality of Mercy
by Dedalus
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
(Version 2.0) After posting my original review last week, I concluded that my “faux-Shakespearean” syntax pastiche was a bit of a cop-out. If I really wanted to pay homage to the Bard, I should have gone full-tilt-boogie, and rendered it in Iambic Pentameter. What follows is my modest attempt. Any lame rhyme scheme found is purely accidental and is not to be confused with anything Elizabethan.

The quality of mercy is not strained.

Thus speaks Park Krausen from the stage
of Oglethorpe’s Performance Theatre,
Whilst in the guise of Portia, of Belmont,
Whilst in the guise of Balthazar, (Of Laws,
A Doctor, Lately come from Padua).
It is a plea I can’t ignore, (although,
When stageful ventures have the virtues of
This one, then mercy is not strained. Indeed,
A justice fair demands withholding all
Save praise from all who strive to judge with words
That only hope to be a shadow of
The true remembrance of the witnessed play.

Mercy –

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

By modern thought, this “Merchant” is the Bard’s
Most problematic tale. It never shies
From Tudor Anti-Semitism, yet
Remains infused with all the humanness
We’ve long expected from this Bard of yore.
The moneylender Shylock still remains
The Villain, spat upon, and dubbed “The Jew,”
As if his tribe were all that need be judged.
Yet, like King Lear, he is “More Sinned Against
Than Sinning.” Still, it is his ire, his thirst
For vengeance that will bring about his fall,
That screams for retribution’s just rebuke.
And as his lack of mercy lays him low,
So still I hope my filled-with-mercy words
Will raise up high your expectations of
This time-dishonoured, time re-honored play.

‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.

Indeed, Shakespearean practioners
At Oglethorpe are oft compared to Kings
In their brave choices and their braver skill.
This foray confirms that judgment still.
Borne by their wit and hot creative spark,
The story swims through streams of time to fall
Into the later 19th-century years
When rank Italian Anti-Semitism
Yet flourished, making attitudes towards
Our Shylock sadly relevant and fell.
By playing to this period allows
The skilled creative team a judgment to
Their heroes, placing all their actions in
The wrong. It tempers final victory
With knowledge that they gained their bliss
At harsh expense of their supposed souls.
The play begins and ends with notes of sad
Reflection, self-examination that
Would puzzle Tudor audiences, but
Not our modern and more tolerant
Demands. This is a indeed a play that tries
To “Have its Anti-Semitism and to
Judge it too.” A razor-sharp attempt
That strikes its mark and thrills us with its aim!

But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

Played on a unit set, replete with harsh
And merciless regard of hindsight borne
Of current tropes, the walls are filled with words,
Reminders of the bond and forfeit that
Propels the plot, and judges all who play
Upon its chess-board floor, moved forth and back
As If by Fate’s regardless hand. Indeed,
As Act IV trial allows the scripted win
Occur; these words remind us of the cost
In Mercy, Justice, Happiness, and Sin
That must befall the heroes of this tale.

The costumes and the lights conspire to build
This world of Venice and environs, and join
To transport us to court, canal, and road –
One set that brings to life all these locales
In Day, In Night, In Happiness and Grief,
And moves the story like a gondola
Propelled beneath the stately Bridge of Sighs.

Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doeth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which, if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

This is my sentence ‘gainst the “Merchant” there:
In design, conception, execution – all –
This is the finest GSF production played in years.
Park Krausen gives to Portia life and joy
That reach unto the upper balcony.
She fills the night with insight, character,
And wit, and brings alive the poetry and fire
That spreads throughout the cast with joyous life.
Just like her many suitors, we can’t help
But fall in love with her when first she comes
Onto the stage. This is a love that grows
As we embrace her tale. And like the test
Her father left behind (at least the true
And winning riddle), we would give our all
To fill her life with happiness and song.
And Joe Knezevich’s callow heir,
Bassanio, transcends initial sense
Of shallow lightness finding gravitas
That only knowledge of the harshest costs
Of one’s mistaken paths must surely bring.
Allen O’Reilly gives Antonio
A sadness, depth, and yearning that reveals
This character as I have never seen.
His deal inev’table, his downfall sore,
His final vict’ry hollow. Here’s a man,
Antonio, endowed with soul scarce found
Upon the page unfiltered by a sense of life
That begs the mercy Shylock cannot bear.
Chris Kayser’s Shylock treads that hair-thin line
Between what’s villain and what breathes with life.
We understand his rage, the wrongs that he has borne.
For once, we judge his daughter’s actions with
A harshness fully earned. For once, we mourn
His downfall, just as it may seem. For once,
We see this Venice through his eyes, the hate
And Enmity that is his daily fare.
We also see the bonds that keep him there.

The quality of mercy is not strained!
If you would count yourself among the ones
Who love the Bard, the stage, and all
The soaring song of word and rhyme,
Then hie yourself until this play’s attained.
No finer mounting under Seven Suns!
This “Merchant” made to me a clarion call
That echoes throughout Venice, throughout time.

-- Brad Rudy (



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