Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” at The Warehouse Theatre

The Merchant of Venice” opened at The Warehouse Theatre this past Friday.  I was really excited to get to go see this show because I really enjoy Shakespeare plays.  I remember reading “The Merchant of Venice” in high school but it had been such a long time that I had forgotten a lot about the play.  The Warehouse’s performance was not only a great refresher to a classic bit of Shakespeare, but an overall wonderful show itself.

As far as Shakespeare plays go, “The Merchant of Venice” may be one of the most complex and difficult in our modern time.  Much of this complexity and difficulty comes from the subject matter of Shylock, the vengeful Jewish moneylender who plays a central role in the play.  I spoke with Paul Savas, the Executive Director of The Warehouse Theatre as well as the actor portraying Shylock in this performance, about the difficulties entailed in the character.  We discussed how on one hand there is a desire to try to present Shylock as a sympathetic character, who is a victim of the cruelties of a prejudice society.  However, it is hard to detach the character from the reality of the world in which the play was written, In Shakespeare’s time being Jewish was outlawed in England and antisemitism was ripe (though there is no historical evidence that Shakespeare himself was antisemitic).  We can see that in many senses Shylock is intended to be the villain of the play, but there is no questions about the fact that some of his speeches, and his final defeat, evoke our sympathies.  Mostly likely, his character is intended to be something more than a racist caricature of a Jew or a wicked moneylender, but instead a complex human who is victim to the cruelties of society while also being capable of such cruelties himself through his vengeful desires.  I think that in this performance, The Warehouse Theatre, and Paul, pull off Shylock exceptionally well, providing the audience with a thought-provoking and interesting take on a very complex character.

Another thing that Paul and I talked about briefly after the show, was the amazing lasting power of Shakespeare’s work.  How is it, that over 400 years after his plays were written, Shakespeare still carries such weight?  Certainly part of it is simply the amazingly detailed and fluid language usage.  But I think that more so, it is how absolutely Shakespeare seems to have understood people in general.  I think that the lasting power is in that any Shakespeare play can be performed 400 years after it was written and still give off a sense of truth about the human condition.  These plays were written less in a specific time or place, but more in the reality of what it means to be a human.  What Shakespeare understood, and put into his works, was profound and real observations about the complexity of human life.

All around the Warehouse’s portrayal of the famous play was wonderful.  I particularly liked both the set design ( a three-tiered set with lots of stairs and a bridge) and the costuming (a mix of modern and historical which places the story in a kind of non-time). Overall, the production value was fantastic (as it has been with every show this year).

While I love reading Shakespeare plays, I find it so much more enjoyable to see them stories as they were intended, as performances with talented actors.  For all the reputation that Shakespeare has for being difficult I find it amazing how well you can understand the content and direction of his plays while watching them being acted out.  The humor and drama are not remotely lost through the use of the somewhat strange and outdated language.  If you have never seen a Shakespeare performance on stage then I highly recommend getting out and seeing one, it is a very educational experience.

“The Merchant of Venice” will be running at The Warehouse Theatre through March 31st.  It is yet another great and worthwhile performance to see here in Greenville, so definitely check it out if you are into the whole theatre thing.

~ by Nathaniel on March 19, 2012.

2 Responses to “Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” at The Warehouse Theatre”

  1. Well said Lord, well said!

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