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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Looking Back at *Merchant*

A friend of Flatwater Shakespeare shared her impressions of the last performance of The Merchant of Venice -- 

The play was beautifully done. The 1890s era was an interesting choice for the setting – the costumes were very fun and the period still felt in harmony with Shakespeare’s language.

Here are some of my favorite things in the production.

The relationships between all the characters, especially:

Antonio and Shylock – they were really the perfect foils for each other;

Antonio and Bassanio – they really messed with the line between platonic and romantic love, and in my mind that was how it should be, since the text certainly gives that impression;

Shylock and Jessica – even though Jessica is a relatively minor character, you can see that her part in the story is still important, and that her betrayal later actually hurt Shylock and was not just an excuse for his revenge; the moment when she hugged him before he left for dinner at Antonio's house was played very well.

I also really liked:

The scene with Launcelot Gobbo and his father – the comedic timing was impeccable, and Bassanio's patience wearing thin was really effective.

Gratiano’s jumping full-on into Bassanio's arms after Bassanio chose the right casket; no profound significance here (except a hint of how important the choice was for Gratiano, too) – it was just really funny.

Shylock's “hath not a Jew eyes' speech” – this was the first time I had ever heard it spoken both with hurt/anger and with bone-deep grief; very powerful -- I cried.

The romances – which were sweet but not overdone.

The trial scene – Antonio being at Shylock's mercy and yet still retaining his feeling of arrogant moral superiority was perfectly done; Portia was a wonderful doctor of the law, not retreating an inch, despite how close Shylock was to her in his anger; the tragic irony of Antonio being saved by Portia and then, despite seeing Shylock in the very position he himself had just occupied, deciding to ignore Portia's “quality of mercy” speech and to strip Shylock of the one thing he had not yet lost – his Jewish identity. I cried here too, especially when Shylock was forced to beg for his life on his hands and knees.

The ending scene, with Portia and Nerissa getting the better of their new husbands and forcing them to treat them as equal partners, not as things to be won, owned, or idolized. And Bassanio crawling across the stage to Portia, trying to make up the loss of the ring, was hilarious.

The actors’ reactions to other people's lines: I love that about live theatre – you get to see all the people in a scene rather than just the participants in a dialogue; it makes the story more personal, more real.

Overall, it was excellently performed. I would have probably embarrassed myself in front of the actors by gushing about it to them, especially the man who played Shylock, Patrick Lambrecht. However, I had to leave before getting a chance to see them.

Congratulations to Tom Crew and his creative team for an exceptional The Merchant of Venice! Many thanks to all who attended -- including the friend who wrote this lovely appreciation immediately after a show -- and to all supported the production.  Special thanks go to our partners in providing opportunities to discuss the play, its themes, and its implications for our own times: Ms. Nancy Coren, Professor Sarah Kelen, Professor Carole Levin, Rabbi Craig Lewis, and Professor Scott Stanfield. 

Photo: Patrick Lambrecht as Shylock in Flatwater Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, directed by Tom Crew. Photo Credit: Jourdan Guenther


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