The young, relatively new, City Shakespeare Company is offering a 90-minute modern take on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice now through April 12, but the well-intentioned effort produces mixed results. Any abbreviated adaptation of Shakespeare’s text runs the risk of eliminating moments that show the full colors of his characters but director Brooke Bishop not only edits out much of the conflict and harsh reality of the play, she reduces her characters to types, and the villain Shylock to what feels like a secondary role. The play may be called The Merchant of Venice but it is the moneylender that Shakespeare uses to teach his audience a lesson and without his passion and pain, the story’s impact is marginalized.
Gone is the cultural insight into Antonio (Todd Elliott) and his friends’ mistreatment of the Jew and many of the references that would explain why Shylock (Peter Nikkos) is so bitter and hard of heart. Gone too is the deeper motivation for Shylock’s daughter Jessica (the very sweet Megan Ruble) to run away from her father’s house and marry a Christian, which gives great insight into Shylock’s character. Some of the most eloquent passages have either been dropped to accommodate an actor who is in over his head, or are allowed to remain but are delivered with only the slightest understanding of the text. More