The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0142  Thursday, 7 July 2011

From:         Stuart Manger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         July 6, 2011 3:52:49 PM EDT
Subject:      Merchant of Venice in a Las Vegas Setting

Quick questions for subscribers prompted by the UK production of MoV with Patrick Stewart as Shylock:
[a] Can you recall any setting for a major Shakespeare play that you have seen or heard of which would so seriously mitigate against the text that it would invalidate the design and damage the play?
[b] More specifically, why is that when MoV is discussed, the role of Shylock is almost always the only topic of debate while the play itself is manifestly not about him primarily?

[Editor’s Note: Concerning these questions, on Saturday I attended with my daughters and son-in-law the final production of this season’s Shakespeare Theatre, even though I have subscribed faithfully every year since 1975 I have let my subscription lapse. After an exquisite version of Pinter’s Old Times at Lansburgh Theatre, the space I infinitely prefer to the cavernous, impersonality of the Harmon where a horrendous Merchant is currently playing and which is one of the reasons I am no longer a subscriber after thirty-six years. This Merchant, as so many I have seen over the years in Washington, DC, London, and Stratford, epitomizes some of the objections Stuart Manger implicitly raises in his questions. Regarding [b], this production is yet another of the frequent tragedies of Shylock. Regarding [a] a prohibition New York City of gangsters with terrible, you guessed it, Italian accents failed miserably to capture the text of the play and seriously worked against it. –Hardy Cook]

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