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A rich merchant, Antonio is depressed for no good reason, until his good friend Bassanio comes to tell him how he's in love with Portia. Portia's father has died and left a very strange will: only the man that picks the correct casket out of three (silver, gold, and lead) can marry her. Bassanio, unfortunately, is strapped for cash with which to go wooing, and Antonio wants to help, so Antonio borrows the money from Shylock, the money-lender. But Shylock has been nursing a grudge against Antonio's insults, and makes unusual terms to the loan. And when Antonio's business fails, those terms threaten his life, and it's up to Bassanio and Portia to save him. Written by
Warren Mitchell's portrayal is amazing. Rather than the over-playing of Olivier Mitchell shows a man who is loathed by all and yet is also obviously a product of this loathing. His shifts between pleasure and pain, glory and defeat, hatred and hurting are superb.
A previous poster comments on Mitchell's accent. fair enough, but why just pick on his. All the others should be speaking Italian. Mitchell's Yiddish accent is fine and, for the most part, resists the urge to go 100% comic.
Another poster wrote of the production failing to 'resolve the antisemitic overtones of the play'. So what? Antisemitism has never been resolved and it certainly wasn't in the play... nor, do I feel, was it meant to be. We feel little sympathy for the 'winners' in this piece. Their own virulent antisemitism has been shown and the creation of it, Shylock's twisted avenger, is also obvious.
What surprised me was how, even though I knew the play, Portia came across as the biggest, self-righteous cow in the piece. I had never thought of how the caskets could refer to her when the matter of outer beauty housing less than beautiful things. This beautiful woman has a heart of stone towards the Jew and the foreigners.
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