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‘Merchant of Venice’ performance causes a mix of emotions

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Purdue Northwest’s production of “The Merchant of Venice,” directed by Paul Hecht, was quite the riot. Leaving the audience with laughs and questions about society, PNW’s take on William Shakespeare’s play was a success.

The classic comedic drama is set in Renaissance era Italy in the town of Venice. Main characters Antonio, played by Jason Finner, and Bassanio, played by Joseph Ellison, find themselves out of money. Bassanio, trying to woo Portia, played by Lillianna Pollnow, yet frivolous spending has left him in Antonio’s debt. Antonio, on the other hand, has put his money into multiple business ventures which he frets over in the beginning of the play. Ellison and Finner were a great duo on stage. They remind one of two fraternity brothers in their relationship and their spending habits. It tugs at the heartstrings to see Antonio willfully lay down his life for his best friend.

Short on money, the two visit a Jewish banker named Shylock played by Niel Jacoby. After some debating, Shylock accepts their pleading and lends them three thousand ducats. Jacoby does a great job as Shylock and he really played with audience emotions for him. Viewers found themselves torn between sympathizing with him and hating his guts. Audience sympathy was tested for though it is tragic that he is discriminated against, he is still conniving and mischievous.

In the meantime, Shylock’s daughter Jessica played by Elizabeth Green who does not want to be part of her father’s plans, finds herself wanting to escape from him by marrying Lorenzo played by Ethan Hall, a Christian and converting to his faith. The chemistry between Hall and Green was superb. I was partially convinced that what was going on between them was real.

The audience, though small, seemed invested. Though there were some instances where it could be seen that the actors did not understand what they were actually saying thanks to the way Shakespeare wrote his lines. Some of the actors also needed to be a bit livelier in their speech and there was a long pause between a scene change which left me and some of the audience confused. While the shows have ended, be on the lookout for some more great Shakespearean productions through PNW.

“The Merchant of Venice” receives 4 out of 5 stars.

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