What started as a typical light-hearted comedy turned out to be a show covering different social issues, from anti-semitism to feminism to the struggle of class within a wealthy Venetian society, as the Dailey Theater premiered William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.”
The show opened with warm, inviting chaos, with sounds of the bustling town square echoing throughout the theater.
This element of liveliness stayed constant throughout the entire first half of the show.
The characters Gratiano, Solanio, Salerio and the Moroccan Prince, played respectively by actors Alex Freitas, Cody Goss, Jordan Klomp and Raymond Del Rio, provided comedic relief.
From the sly innuendo provided by Freitas’s character, to the drunk slapstick laughs from Klomp and Goss, the audience was kept laughing as long as these characters were onstage.
However, not even the exuberance from these few could diminish what the audience could pick up on as an uncouth commentary on the treatment of people who are considered outsiders.
This exclusionary attitude is found with the treatment of the Jewish character Shylock, played by senior Alvaro Renteria.
Renteria embodied what would be considered to be the typical Shylock, a seemingly cold miser, more concerned with the safety of his wealth than the safety of his own daughter.
However, as the show continued on, it was revealed that there is more to this man than meets the eye. A heroic villain, one might even feel sorry for him by the end of the show.
Playing Renteria’s opposite, senior Stephanie Aguilar portrayed the heroine of the show, the lovely Portia.
She also played this strong-willed female quite well for someone who normally has motherly roles.
Overall the show is very well cast, even the director commented that it’s the best cast he’s had in thirty years. The leads are strong and the ensemble plays their part well. Even the servant in Portia’s household, played by David Ovcharenko, caused laughter to erupt from the audience.
One of the central themes of the show is the triumph of mercy over justice. The hypocrisy with that idea is shown through the struggle of power between the higher and lower classes. The higher classes talk of mercy but treat those seemingly lesser than them with none.
They blatantly look down upon those who are poor, of a different race, or female. By the end of the show when all is resolved, there is still a sense that Shakespeare’s work is unfinished, that there is more to be said and done to fix the situation between the Christians and the Jews.
To the audience it may seem that the first half moves quicker than the second half of the show, possibly because the heavier elements come into play after intermission. Merchant brings a little bit of light and darkness together in its twisted plot of love, debt, family and mercy. Audiences are sure to laugh as well as ponder the intentions of the characters shown onstage.
Alison Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com.