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The Merchant of Venice

a Comedy
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4719

SHOWING : May 01, 2015 - May 24, 2015



A lost fortune, a lover’s choice and one of the most powerful expressions of "the quality of mercy" in literature: meet Portia, Bassanio and Shylock, the Jewish moneylender and one of Shakespeare’s most controversial characters of all time. A suspenseful comedy with a tragic core that has intrigued audiences for centuries. Does the expression of mercy come through in the characters’ actions?

Director Laura Cole
Nerissa Kirsten Calvert
Bassanio Ralph del Rosario
Prince of Arragon/Jailer/Launcelot Gobbo Matt Felten
Gratiano Doug Graham
Lorenzo/Jailer Garrett Gray
Salerino/Lady-in-Waiting Dani Herd
Shylock Doug Kaye
Ensemble Adam Daniel King
Jessica Amanda Lindsey
Solanio/Henchman Vinnie Mascola
Duke of Venice/Prince of Morocco/Tubal/O Matt Nitchie
Portia Amee Vyas
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A Villain with Smiling Cheeks
by playgoer
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
"The Merchant of Venice" is classified as one of Shakespeare’s comedies, but modern sensibilities see the story arc of Shylock as being on the tragic side. Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern’s production tends to minimize the Shylock storyline as much as it can, introducing him as "a villain with smiling cheeks," and adding comic bit after comic bit to the story following his downfall. This is definitely a comic production.

A lot of the comedy comes from the actors playing multiple roles, notably Matt Nitchie and Matt Felten. Both of them nail very different characterizations, with the serious ones being as serious as they need to be and the comic ones as comic as can be. Director Laura Cole has found lots of opportunities to inject comedy into the production, with the ending of the show piling comic situation upon comic situation and comic bit upon comic bit. It’s very smartly directed.

The show begins slowly. A tableau of a set of scales is spotlighted on the empty stage before the show starts, then the glum and dour Antonio (Sam R. Ross) comes on to moan and mourn, although things are looking pretty good for him. He’s just short of ready cash, meaning he can help his friend Bassanio (Ralph del Rosario) only by borrowing money from Shylock (Doug Kaye). That sets the well-known plot into motion. (Shylock will lend the money only on the condition that he can exact a pound of flesh from the Jew-despising Antonio upon forfeit.) Once Portia is introduced and the plot starts to move, it keeps going, faster and faster as the performance proceeds.

All the performances are good, with Amee Vyas making for a lovely and beautifully voiced Portia, her various accents delightful as she mocks her suitors of various nations. The only performance I had any significant problem with was Mr. del Rosario’s, since his rapid-fire delivery often made his lines nearly unintelligible to me. He played up the comedy of his role, however, which seemed to make him an audience favorite.

Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern makes good use of its two-story set, also utilizing the closest portion of the audience for cross-overs, entrances, and a little bit of audience participation. Anné Carole Butler’s costumes are magnificent, making for a wonderful-looking production in the lighting scheme of Matt Felten. All in all, they’re doing Billy Shakespeare proud. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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