William Shakespeare took center stage at Dailey Theatre last night as the theater department presented “The Merchant of Venice.”
Directed by theater arts professor David Flaten, “Merchant” was put together in less than two months and will be premiered tonight at 7:30 p.m. as “the biggest show of the semester,” junior theater major Cody Goss said.
“I’m really looking forward to all the energy the audience will bring to the show,” senior theater major Raymond Del Rio said.
Set in 16th century Venice, this romantic comedy tells the story of a merchant who is forced to default on a large loan from an abused Jewish moneylender for a friend with romantic ambitions. However, the show takes a turn when the vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment instead.
The heroine of the show, an intelligent young heiress named Portia, is portrayed by senior Stephanie Aguilar. She is using this show as her performance emphasis.
Aguilar considers the role to be a great opportunity to break out of the traditional motherly roles she usually plays, and the fact that it is a period piece makes it even greater.
“I think the hardest part about this play is the language,” Aguilar said.
“You need to look at your script everyday; Shakespeare is super specific and you need to scan the lines to figure out the cues and what’s going on.”
Senior Alvaro Renteria, who plays the Jewish moneylender Shylock, is also using “Merchant” as his acting thesis.
“My acting thesis was originally supposed to be ‘Three Penny Opera’ from last year, but then we switched it to ‘Merchant’,” Renteria said.
“It was weird at first, but I’m glad I did it. I don’t usually get to play the lead so this is a fun experience.”
Despite all of the good aspects of the production, as it happens with any show, the cast and crew ran into some problems. Many schedules conflicted this semester, hurting the rehearsal times, and there were issues with people arriving to build the set, but in the end they completed it all.
“The audience should know that mercy is for everyone. That’s what this show is about,” freshman theater major Alex Freitas said. “Shylock is written to seem like an evil character but in reality he’s very human and loyal.”
“I want the audience to have a good time, however also to be provoked, some of the topics aren’t too nice,” Aguilar said.
“There is racism, exclusion, making people feel like they are the ‘others,’ lots of controversy. I want them to leave laughing, but also thinking about moral issues.”
The director has high praise for the production.
“This is the best cast we’ve had in the 30 years here at La Verne,” Flaten said. “As the actors delve deeper into the script, they also get darker. However I hope that with this show they have joy, its called a play not a suffer. The audience is sure to enjoy it.”
“The Merchant of Venice” runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and May 2-4, with a 2 p.m. matinee on May 5.
For more information call 909-593-3511, ext. 4386.
Alison Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.