Justice or mercy – which one is more important? That’s a key theme in Shakespeare’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, which is currently performing at the Parson’s Nose Theater (PNT), in Pasadena. Adapted by Producing Artistic Director Lance Davis and directed by Managing Director Gideon Y. Schein, the play will run through Sunday, June 2, 2019.
The most important character in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is Shylock, a Jew who lends money to a Christian on one condition – if the latter is not able to pay the money back, Shylock will be free to demand one (literal) “pound of flesh” from him. When the moment arrives, Shylock wants justice, and the Christian pleads mercy. So, which one shall prevail? The beauty of Shakespeare’s tale is that neither Shylock, nor the Christians, are perfect characters. They’re neither nice people, nor complete villains. They’re all examples of the society of their time, along with its question marks and its divisions between peoples. Because our modern society also has strong feelings about “the other,” now expanded to Muslims, Jews, gays, women, Latinos, and so forth, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is a play that will send you home with much to think about.
At PNT, Shylock is played quite nicely by Barry Gordon, an actor who has spent his entire life on the stage, was once nominated for a Tony award, and whom you may have seen as guest star on TV shows like NYPD Blue and ER. He performs along 11 other talented actors, including Louis Baker as a much entertaining “Prince of Morocco,” and Cecily Glouchevitch as a lovely “Portia.”
Located in Pasadena’s historic Marston/Van Pelt chapel (near City Hall), PNT performs condensed classic adaptations that present the language, characters, plot, and spirit of the world’s greatest writers; in this case – Shakespeare. This means that you can enjoy a play that usually would take nearly three hours to see, in just 90 minutes, with an intermission. This adaptation of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE keeps Shakespeare’s language, but presents it in a condensed form that highlights the most important parts of the story.
This production is fun and, because it’s presented in an intimate setting, the action is up close, allowing you to notice details that you may otherwise miss out on.
I’ll give you an example: sitting in the first row while I watched the play last week, I noticed these… protuberances… located in the groin area of the pants that some of the male characters wore. You’d think I’d noticed that before, having attended as many Shakespeare plays as I have, but I went home straight to “Google” what they were all about. Well, they are codpieces, which, according to Encyclopedia.com, were meant to unapologetically enhance the gender of the wearer. Sometimes they had a practical use, such as holding coins or jewels (which may even have something to do with what we now understand as “the family’s jewels”). It was a fashion popular in the 16th century that began to die out in its last decade, right around the time in which The Bard wrote THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1597). Isn’t it wonderful to keep on learning!?
Tickets for THE MERCHANT OF VENICE are $35 adults / $25 seniors / $20 students, and are available online or by calling 626) 403-7667. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 3 pm, through June 2, 2019. PNT is located at 95 North Marengo Ave (enter from Holly St.), in Pasadena, CA 91101.