The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2224 Monday, 24 November 2003
Date: Friday, 21 Nov 2003 10:31:02 -0500
Subject: MERCHANT NYC Times Review
Review of Merchant of Venice in today's New York Times:
November 21, 2003
THEATER REVIEW | 'MERCHANT OF VENICE'
In Shylock vs. Antonio, a Ray of Hope for a Pitiable Soul
By D. J. R. BRUCKNER
In the Pearl Theater Company's "Merchant of Venice," Shylock certainly
makes the most of his day in court, and all the days before, and that
makes this production a sometimes troubling experience. Shepard Sobel,
the company's founder and the director here, accomplishes this
transformation by focusing our attention more intently than usual on the
confrontations between Shylock and Antonio, the merchant of the title.
Dominic Cuskern's Shylock is angry, bristly, too offended for too long
to hide his resentment. This Shylock affects a slight Middle European
accent, and he knows how to make the other characters, and the audience,
feel the snap of his wit. (No other character can stand up to him in
this respect.) He makes no big speeches. Those few that we expect to be
appeals to the audience are spoken directly to other characters,
naturally, and you can feel Shylock struggling to hold onto his temper.
His defeat at the end of the play is pitiable.
As for Antonio, Dan Daily turns him into an easily recognizable
commercial tycoon, a bit standoffish, bragging about his diversified
investments in shipping, easily commanding his younger colleagues,
silencing them with declarations that his status gives him higher
obligations. When Shylock first accuses Antonio of spitting on him, you
can almost see this Antonio craning over the lip of his skybox to get a
There is a dramatic spark between these two characters that puts
everyone else in the background, and that makes the final court scene
viscerally upsetting but, in an odd way, hopeful. There is a feeling
that Shylock will somehow escape the legal manacles placed on him by the
duke and the law, and then all these people will learn what an
irresistibly smart opponent he can be.
. . .
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