The Merchant of Venice at Bard on the Beach

The Merchant of Venice is now open on the Howard Family Stage at Bard on the Beach 2017.

Photo credit: David and Emily Cooper

The thought provoking play, at first glance, seems dated in it’s views on Jews, Christian, marriage, women.  However, when you break it down prejudice, revenge, distrust are themes that are timeless. While Shakespeare wrote the play over 4 centuries ago, these themes in the story seem to resonate with today’s news headlines.  Award-winning director Nigel Shawn Williams has taken brought his version of The Merchant of Venice into this century with modern Italian-inspired costumes but kept the dialogue true to the original script.

Split into two location, Venice and Belmont, set designer Marshall McMahen keeps things simple using projections against the static onstage towers to change the locations, and Costumer Drew Facey changes the palate of the costumes with crisp suits and fitted fashions in black, white and grey in Venice while Belmont has a softer, flowing silhouette in pastels and creams.   The two halves of the story feel differently too; the aggressive business and legal transactions in Venice between Jewish Shylock, played with fury by Warren Kimmel, and Christian Antonio, an understated Edward Foy, are coupled by the fast paced action and speech, While the romantic storyline surrounding fair Portia’s Belmont villa is slower and builds suspense as we watch the love unfold between Portia and Bassanio’s, played by the charismatic Olivia Hunt and Charlie Gallant.

The Merchant of Venice has so much going on, at times it’s hard to keep it all straight in your head, but the concentration made it more thought provoking,  as modern day prejudices came to mind.   The 160 minute production goes by quite quickly as the pace of the staging keeps your attention in check.

Bard on the Beach presents The Merchant of Venice at the Howard Family Stage in the Douglas Campbell Theatre on alternate nights with The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

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