by Paula Citron
As a production in itself, Richard Rose’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s problematic play The Merchant of Venice is worthwhile. The acting, particularly on the part of the men, is lamentable. Phillip Clarkson’s costumes for the women are dumb. Yet, Rose draws us in with his clever choices.
The anti-Semitism against Shylock is relentless, as is the hypocrisy of his Christian tormentors. This is perhaps the play that the Elizabethan audiences would have expected as the norm – very funny Belmont scenes and intense Venice scenes.
The women save the acting – Severn Thompson as Portia, Raquel Duffy as Nerissa and Sara Topham as Jessica. Graham Greene is one dimensional as Shylock and Scott Wentworth as Antonio gives another of his mumbled self-indulgent performances. Sean Arbuckle, Gareth Potter and Jean-Michel Le Gal as the suitors are uneven.
Would I suggest seeing this play? Definitely. Rose has created a Merchant for the 21st century.
The Merchant of Venice continues until Oct. 27.
From the Stratford Festival Theatre, I’m Paula Citron, arts reviewer for CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.