NEW YORK TIMES: Theater Review | ‘The Merchant of Venice’

At a time when “anti-Semitism… has blighted if not ended two major careers” in fashion and show business,” the “terrific” production of Shakespeares “The Merchant of Venice” now at Pace is “oddly fitting,” according to The New York Times’s rave review. http://theater.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/theater/reviews/05merchant.html?ref=arts

Evoking the “bottom-line obsessed world of today’s Wall Street,” F. Murray Abraham’s Shylock has “a fierce hatred in his heart, but on the surface struggles to maintain a steady cool,” says the reviewer, Charles Isherwood. Abraham”s performance in many ways exceeds even that of Al Pacino, Isherwood says.

What Price a Pound of Flesh?

By CHARLES ISHERWOOD

If you’ve scanned the headlines recently, you have no doubt been freshly reminded that the toxin of anti-Semitism has hardly been eradicated from contemporary culture. In the last couple of weeks it has surfaced spectacularly in the worlds of show business and fashion, blighting, if not ending, two major careers.

How oddly fitting, in these strange circumstances, that New York should play host to a terrific production of “The Merchant of Venice,” arriving just weeks after the last one closed. The new staging, from Theater for a New Audience, features F. Murray Abraham as Shylock. (I don’t need to remind you of who starred in the just-closed Broadway version, do I?) The production, directed by Darko Tresnjak and originally produced in 2007, can be seen at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University through March 13 before a tour to Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles.

Modern dress is often the default choice of directors trying to signpost Shakespeare’s relevance today, but Mr. Tresnjak’s version, evoking the bottom-line-obsessed world of today’s Wall Street, resonates more deeply than most in suggesting how the calculations of profit and loss are integral to even the most intimate human relationships. With the businessmen of Venice attired in sleek dark suits and sporting the latest in high-tech gadgetry, Mr. Tresnjak’s nuanced interpretation also points toward the casual, collective prejudice — whether it is anti-Semitism, misogyny or homophobia — that still germinates among all-male societies today.

Most impressive, however, are the fully realized performances in literally all of the play’s roles. Mr. Tresnjak and his superb cast allow us to see with unusual clarity the light and the dark in Shakespeare’s characters, not just the wronged but vengeful Shylock and his nemesis, the casually bigoted Antonio (Tom Nelis), but also the wise, loving Portia (Kate MacCluggage), who sees fit to test her husband’s love with unnecessary calculation, and comparatively insignificant players like the servant Launcelot Gobbo (a spirited, funny Jacob Ming-Trent).

Shakespeare’s profound understanding of human complexity is rendered with such care that we register sharply how both cruelty and compassion, ignorance and intelligence, mercy and injustice reside not just in any human heart, but also in every human heart. A late-coming speech we often only half-hear, a celebration of the music of the spheres from the minor character Lorenzo (Vince Nappo), makes a powerful impression, encapsulating the lamentable truth the production illuminates.

Gazing up at the stars, he muses, “Such harmony is in immortal souls,/But whilst this muddy vesture of decay/Doth grossly enclose it, we cannot hear it.” Disharmony is the condition of fallen humanity, and even the noblest and most loving hearts are deeply flawed.

Mr. Abraham’s Shylock is probably the finest I’ve seen, although the British actor Henry Goodman was terrific in a National Theater production in London some years ago. It would be coy to avoid any comparisons with Al Pacino’s exciting, savage-spirited performance for the Public Theater production in Central Park and, later, Broadway. Both Mr. Abraham and Mr. Pacino are first-rate actors, I need hardly say, but Mr. Abraham is the more rigorous classicist, phrasing the language with an attentive care for rhythm and clarity.

Mr. Pacino brought intense fire and a revelatory anger to Shylock’s most famous speech (“If you prick us, do we not bleed?”). Mr. Abraham delivers it with a complicated mixture of bitterness and implacable logic. As a man who must negotiate the decorous halls of the contemporary business world, Mr. Abraham’s Shylock keeps a tighter lid on his rage, and on his humiliation, too. In flashing asides we see how the treatment he has received has stoked a fierce hatred in his heart, but on the surface he struggles to maintain a steady cool, even when he is being taunted and beaten.

Mr. Abraham’s Shylock is also piercingly moving when he gives way to a desperate grief at the loss of his daughter (and, yes, the ducats on which his pride as a successful businessman in an antipathetic world rests). Speaking to Tubal of the ring he cherished as a remembrance of his wife, he breaks down in tears, and Mr. Abraham makes us feel acutely how his suffering and his thirst for revenge are tragically, inextricably linked.

As Portia, Ms. MacCluggage radiates a forthright intelligence inflected with both humor and, when she has declared her love for Bassanio (Lucas Hall), a glowing warmth. Mr. Hall’s Bassanio is touching in the sincerity and simplicity of his ardor, and in his deep filial feeling for Antonio, as well. (I think the impulsive kiss in the trial scene is a mistake, however; hints of homosexuality don’t violate the word of the text, but is such literalism necessary?)

Mr. Nelis’s Antonio bears himself with an upright stoicism, and his affection for Bassanio is written in gentle but true colors. We see, too, the reflexive prejudice that has him unthinkingly take out his handkerchief to wipe his hand after shaking Shylock’s. And yet it is of course Antonio, rather more than the unflinching Portia (in disguise), who grants Shylock at least a little of the mercy she so eloquently invokes in the trial scene.

The smaller roles are filled equally well: Ted Schneider is a frat-boyishly funny Gratiano, Christen Simon Marabate a poised Nerissa. Melissa Miller and Mr. Nappo are unusually vivid as Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, and her beloved Lorenzo, their uneasy relations clearly haunted by the shadow of the prevalent prejudice against Jews and by her guilt at having abandoned her father.

Love in Shakespeare’s plays is rarely a simple matter, but it is almost always presented as an example of humanity’s noblest impulses, the best of what man can become. Blissful unions conclude most of the great comedies.

“The Merchant of Venice,” which is technically classified as a comedy, is no exception. But in this troubling play the love matches bring grief in their wake, just as the pursuit of justice — ostensibly a righteous mission — also proves an act of inhuman cruelty. Without piling on the atmospheric gloom, as Daniel Sullivan’s Broadway production sometimes did, Mr. Tresnjak’s first-rate interpretation makes these complications get under your skin in a way they rarely do. You are left with the disheartening thought that it is possible to do right and wrong at the same time.

Read the article with photos on the New York Times web site here.

New York Times and The Day: Merchant of Venice at Pace

Pace was mentioned in Connecticut’s TheDay.com because a production of Merchant of Venice will be held at the Schimmel Theater. The show was also mentioned in the New York Times in an article exclaiming the abundance of Shakespeare performances in the area.

Pace was mentioned in Connecticut’s TheDay.com because a production of Merchant of Venice will be held at the Schimmel Theater. The show was also mentioned in the the New York Times in an article exclaiming the abundance of Shakespeare performances in the area.

You can read the full articles in TheDay.com or The New York Times!

You can find more information about the performance of Merchant of Venice that will be held in Pace University’s Schimmel Theater here!

Rave Reviews of “Merry Wives of Windsor” by Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

The “sparkling production” of the “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” at Pace’s downtown campus through Sunday, received rave reviews in The New York Times (featured in weekend “Listings” with a star) TheaterMania.com, and NYmag.com.

“A World of silliness, but No Winking This Time.”

The New York Times’s review of the Shakespeare’s Globe production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Pace’s downtown campus through Sunday, by the paper’s chief drama critic Ben Brantley, finds the show “sparkling.” “I found myself giggling,” he declares, adding that “We often shiver or tear up, in pleasure and relief” at the end of Shakespeare’s comedies; “you’ll experience that same ecstatic goose flesh.” 

The sagacious David Finkle, of TheaterMania.com, calls it “thoroughly irresistible,” “immensely entertaining,” and “a rollicking carousel of treats.”

The NY Times featured it in the weekend’s “the Listings” section with a star denoting a “highly recommended” production.

NYmag.com’s review of the show can be seen here.

Pace University Welcomes Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s Love’s Labour’s Lost

When the curtain goes up on Shakespeare’s Globe company’s performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost on December 8 at Pace University, it will mark the company’s first New York appearance since the sold-out tour of Merry Wives of Windsor in 2005. Now directed by Dominic Dromgoole, who succeeded Mark Rylance in 2003 as Artistic Director, Love’s Labour’s Lost will be completing a two-month national tour with performances through Monday evening, December 21. Opening Night is Thursday, December 10th at 8pm. Both the 2005 and 2009 tours were produced by John Luckacovic and Eleanor Oldham of 2Luck Concepts.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts: (Pace University) Chris Cory, 212-346-1117, cell 917-608-8164, ccory@pace.edu or Samuella Becker, 212-346-1637, cell 917-734-5172, sbecker2@pace.edu; (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre) Richard Kornberg 212-944-9444, Richard@Kornbergpr.com

NEW YORK CITY WELCOMES SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE THEATRE’S LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST

When the curtain goes up on Shakespeare’s Globe company’s performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost on December 8 at Pace University, it will mark the company’s first New York appearance since the sold-out tour of Merry Wives of Windsor in 2005. Now directed by Dominic Dromgoole, who succeeded Mark Rylance in 2003 as Artistic Director, Love’s Labour’s Lost will be completing a two-month national tour with performances through Monday evening, December 21. Opening Night is Thursday, December 10th at 8pm. Both the 2005 and 2009 tours were produced by John Luckacovic and Eleanor Oldham of 2Luck Concepts.

In Love’s Labour’s Lost self-denial is in fashion at the court of Navarre where the young King and three of his noblemen solemnly forswear the company of women in favor of serious study. But the lovely, sharp-tongued Princess of France and her all-too-lovely entourage soon arrive with other ideas and it isn’t long before young love, with its flirtations, hesitations and embarrassments, has broken every self-imposed rule set by the young men.

Written shortly after he completed the sonnets, Shakespeare’s boisterous send-up of all those who try to turn their back on life, is a festive parade of every weapon in the youthful playwright’s comic arsenal: from excruciating cross-purposes and impersonations, to drunkenness, fist-fights and pratfalls. Even more, it is a joyful banquet of language, full of puns, rhymes, bizarre syntax, grotesque coinages and parodies, which the company made their own through a unique rehearsal process for performances at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2007, and a revival last summer. And appropriately enough, it is a play that Queen Elizabeth the first commanded for her own holiday festivities nearly 400 years ago.

Contuning in their leading-roles in the touringproduction are Michelle Terry as The Princess of France and Trystan Gravelle as Berowne, along with Seroca Davis, Christopher Godwin, William Mannering, Rhiannon Oliver and Andrew Vincent. Joining them in the Globe company are Jade Anouka, Phil Cumbus, Jack Farthing, Patrick Godfrey, Fergal McElherron, Thomasin Rand, Paul Ready, Siân Robins-Grace and Tom Stuart.

The production has designs by Jonathan Fensom and music by Claire van Kampen. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” will employ Renaissance staging, costume and music, as well as a seating arrangement and staging designed to involve the audience as nearly as possible in the physical immediacy of seeing a play at The Globe, with actors moving beyond the stage, and the theatre bathed in “daylight” at all times.

Dominic Dromgoole is the Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe. His previous work at the Globe includes King Lear, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra. This season he is also directing Romeo and Juliet and A New World: A Life of Thomas Paine by Trevor Griffiths. He was Artistic Director of the Oxford Stage Company (1999-2005) and the Bush Theatre (1990-1996), and Director of New Plays for the Peter Hall Company (1996/7). He has also directed at the Tricycle Theatre, in the West End, and in America and Romania. Dominic has written two books, The Full Room (2001) and Will & Me (2006).

Jonathan Fensom most recently worked at Stratford Shakespeare Festival as the designer of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jonathan was nominated for a Tony Award for his set design for Journey’s End in 2007 and was associate designer on Disney’s The Lion King, which premièred at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway and has subsequently opened worldwide. He has designed more than 50 productions worldwide, from Shakespeare to ballet to modern classics. Other recent productions include King Lear and Love’s Labour’s Lost at Shakespeare’s Globe; Swan Lake for San Francisco Ballet; The Faith Healer, Journey’s End, The American Plan and Pygmalion in New York; Rain Man, Some Girls, Twelfth Night and Crown Matrimonial in the West End; The Homecoming and Big White Fog at the Almeida Theatre; Happy Now?, The Mentalists and Burn/Citizenship/Chatroom at the National Theatre; Talking to Terrorists and The Sugar Syndrome at the Royal Court Theatre; and National Anthems at the Old Vic.

Claire van Kampen trained at the Royal College of music, specialising in the performance of contemporary music, and studying composition with Dr. Ruth Gipps. In 1986 she joined the RSC and the Royal National Theatre, becoming the first female musical director with both companies. Her international career as composer, performer, writer and broadcaster has produced scores for many theatre productions, television and film. In 1990 she co-founded the theatre company Phoebus Cart with Mark Rylance. Their production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was performed in the foundations of the Globe in 1991. As Director of theatre Music during its founding ten years, Claire was involved in creating the music for over 30 Globe productions between 1997 and 2006. Recent Globe productions include: Love’s Labour’s Lost (2007), King Lear (2008) and Helen (2009). Awards include; the Vero Nihil Verius Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts by Concordia University (Oregon, USA), and the 2007 Sam Wanamaker Award (with Mark Rylance and Jenny Tiramani for their ‘Original Practices’ productions at the Globe.) Recent work includes: Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (Hampstead Theatre); Bash (West End); Boeing-Boeing (West End and Broadway, NY); I Am Shakespeare (Chichester Festival Theatre); Peer Gynt (Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis); Romeo and Juliet (Middle Temple Hall festival). Film: Nocturne (Ind.2009). As a writer, Claire is creating a new play about the castrato Farinelli, and also writing both book and music for Grand Central, a musical to be produced in New York.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was founded by the late and pioneering American actor/director Sam Wanamaker, who persevered for nearly 30 years to rebuild a replica of the Globe near its original site in London. Since the Globe’s reopening by Her Majesty the Queen in 1997, the theatre has fulfilled its vision of recreating for audiences the infectious energy and spontaneity of Shakespeare plays as they were originally presented in an urban amphitheater.

Pace University’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, located in New Amsterdam’s original theatre district near City Hall in lower Manhattan, has presented a wide range of cultural programs and public events for the campus and surrounding community since 1969. In addition to student productions and special events, the Michael Schimmel Center was the home of Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre, a founding venue of the Tribeca Film Festival and Tribeca Theater Festival, and a presenting partner of the River-to-River Festival. The Center also hosts international companies such as the Beijing People’s Art Theatre. When not in use for performances, the theatre is home to the award-winning television program Inside the Actors Studio.

Love’s Labour’s Lost will be performed at the Michael Schimmel Center at Pace University located at 3 Spruce Street, east of Park Row, near the corner of Gold Street.

Performances begin Tuesday, December 8th and follow a Tuesdays – Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8, and Sundays at 3 & 7 schedule with no Tuesday, December 15th Performance, and closing Monday, December 21st at 8pm.

Tickets are $25-$75 and available through www.smarttix.com or by calling 212-868-4444.

Pace University Department of Performing Arts Presents “HAMLET”

In the roster of Shakespeare’s works HAMLET is the play which, for centuries, has gripped audiences, artists and scholars with an almost hypnotic allure. Pace University’s Department of Performing Arts will present this timeless masterpiece December 5, 6, 7 and 8 at the Schimmel Center for the Arts, located in downtown Manhattan on Spruce Street between Park Row and Gold Street.

Pace University Department of Performing Arts Presents “HAMLET”

New York, NY – December 2, 2002 – In the roster of Shakespeare’s works HAMLET is the play which, for centuries, has gripped audiences, artists and scholars with an almost hypnotic allure. Pace University’s Department of Performing Arts will present this timeless masterpiece December 5, 6, 7 and 8 at the Schimmel Center for the Arts, located in downtown Manhattan on Spruce Street between Park Row and Gold Street.

Contemporary issues, of course, abound. Perhaps the Bard’s most intricate examination of a tortured mind, HAMLET is the study of a man trapped in a web of grief, disillusionment and indecision. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, returns home for his father’s funeral and his mother’s wedding to his uncle. In a supernatural encounter, he discovers that his uncle murdered his father. His code of morals is assaulted by a barrage of questions. Is this deed so abhorrent that he must avenge it? Has he the courage to pronounce the verdict and carry out the sentence? If he does not, can he live with his decision and with himself? As his understanding of this treachery becomes more acute, he is tormented by the grim choices he must make.

Pace production sets HAMLET in the genteel world of 1920’s society. Under the direction of Dr. R.D. Woertendyke, assistant professor of theater and fine arts at Pace University’s Dyson College of Arts & Sciences, a cast of over thirty students will perform the play uncut, in its entirety.

HAMLET will be performed at Pace University from December 5 through December 8: Thursday at 7:00 pm; Friday at 7:00 pm; Saturday at 1:00 and 7:00 pm; and Sunday at 1:00 pm. Tickets are $10; students and senior citizens $7. For more information or reservations call 212-346-1883.

Pace is a comprehensive, independent university with campuses in New York City and Westchester County, and a Hudson Valley Center located at Stewart International Airport in New Windsor. More than 14,000 students are enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs in the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Lubin School of Business, School of Computer Science and Information Systems, School of Education, Lienhard School of Nursing and Pace Law School.