The Merchant of Venice

Los Angeles director John Langs (who staged last fall’s assured revival of The Adding Machine) is back in Seattle, and not only has he set his Merchant during the 1929 stock market crash, but he's enlisted his wife, television actress Klea Scott, to play the female lead, Portia. Charles Leggett plays Shylock as a kind of renaissance Willy Loman, long-suffering and perseverant--a wronged man waiting for tides to turn in his favor. There are no ruffles or flourishes, no gaudy primary colors or Puss-in-Boots getups to distract from what is clearly among the thorniest of Shakespeare’s plays, an approach that renders this Merchant as transparent as the Christians’ antipathy toward Shylock and as naked as Shylock’s loathing for them and their strength in numbers. More than 400 years after its debut, what was unresolved and unsettling about Merchant remains so. The quality of mercy is not strained, Shakespeare reminds us. But in this age of Bernie Madoff and sub-prime fallout, what is avarice, and where, if ever, should it intersect with mercy? KEVIN PHINNEY [Read Kevin's full review.]

Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: March 12. Continues through April 5, 2009

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