Play Review: “Merchant of Venice” at 2008 Hawai’i Shakespeare Festvial

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?”

Venue: Art’s at Mark’s Garage
Watched: Thursday, August 28, 2008

The 2008 Hawai’i Shakespeare Festival (in its 7th year) wrapped up last weekend with “Merchant of Venice.” For me this was a play I was familiar with having studied the play back in either Intermediate or High School (don’t remember which grade it was but I’m sure it was either 8th, 9th or 10th grade.  It was a loooong time ago so sue me, lol). For me personally, aside from “Romeo and Juliet” and “Othello,” this is the one play of the Bard’s I’m most familiar with.

Plot Synopsis (taken from the Hawai’i Shakespeare Festival web site).

Merchant of Venice portrays Shakespeare’s 16th century world contrasting the aristocratic and romantic world of Belmont in which people risk everything for love and the mercantile world of Venice, the most powerful and liberal city state in Europe where people risk everything for profit; a world where male friendships encompass a wide range of feelings and loyalties and where men and women marry for romantic love; where greed and prejudice breed hatred, self-righteousness leads to revenge and uncompromising justice results in man’s downfall.

Shakespeare began writing a comedy but ended up creating Shylock, one of his first real tragic characters, turning Merchant of Venice into a tragicomedy.

For more on the play, peruse the ever excellent Wikipedia entry here.

Thoughts:

I enjoyed the experience. I rarely get to see Shakespeare performed live and in a setting like Mark’s Garage you are LITERALLY right up on the action. Like when I saw “Henry V,” I was in the front row so I was literally a hands grab away from the cast.

The costumes were quite exquisite and authentic (well, authentic to me anyway). The performances by the cast were quite captivating. In particular, I enjoyed Stephen Meads powerful and captivating performance of Shylock. When I read about Shylock in school he pretty much sounded like what Mead delivered. The rest of the cast all turned in great and entertaining performances as well. The female cast members were gorgeous (particularly Katherine Aumer-Ryan’s Jessica). A standout in the cast for me was D. Tafai’i Silipa’s role as Morocco. It was a bit part but he delivered the goods and was my favorite performance of the night, for my money.

The show has ended so you’re outta luck in seeing it if you wanted however I definitely encourage those of you who enjoy theatre and Shakespeare to keep next year’s Fest in mind.

Big kudos to Producer Tony Pisculli and the hard-working cast and crew of this year’s 2008 Hawaii Shakespeare Fest for two months of solid entertainment.

For those of you needing a Shakespeare fix, UH Manoa’s Kennedy Theatre will be presenting MacBeth in November.  Check out the Kennedy Theatre web site for dates and prices.

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