The Merchant of Venice
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Cheryl Rossillo
"If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do
we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge"
June 10-26, 2002
HSC began the first summer show of 2002 with a production of Merchant of Venice set in the 1920's New York. Cheryl Rossillo, who had previously appeared in the Stratford Day Festival showcase and as Ophelia in 2001's Hamlet, helmed the show as director and strove to bring the multi layered comedic love story with a delving into a ethnic relations into a period where similar sentiments were apparent. Click here to view the accompanying articles for Stratford, CT & Union City, NJ Set in a river front city, Antonio (William Schineller) and Bassanio (John Trigonis) seek to borrow money from a man they despise so Bassanio can woo a woman he is in love with, the rich Portia (Elizabeth Sugarman). Shylock (Basil Meola), the moneylender, is treated badly by the merchants simply because of he is religiously different. Though Shylock rails against them and wishes he could get revenge especially on Antonio for all of their mistreatment of him, he knows its a burden he is meant to bear. For monies borrowed, Antonio agrees to what seems like a ridiculous interest rate - a pound of flesh. Meanwhile, his daughter Jessica (Vanessa Lema) seeks to leave her father's rule and run off with Bassanio's friend Lorenzo (Jon Crefeld). With his other short-tempered friend Gratiano (Spiro Papas), Bassanio proceeds to Portia's residence to begin the wooing. Through it all, Salerio and Solanio, updated as flappers in our production and played by Diana Hawthorne and Heather Girardi, comment and forward the action to Bassanio's climatic scene.
At Belmont Portia's house, Portia laments to her maid and best friend Nerissa (Alexa Pereira) that her inheritance and prospect for marriage hangs on the conditions in her father's will. The prospective husband must choose between 3 different cases or caskets. One made of Lead, one of Silver and another of Gold. She can only marry the man that chooses the correct one. Through several suitors, each pick a casket that is richly furnished. Bassanio chooses one that reflects his love, simplicity and chooses the lead casket. Although winning her hand, news arrives that Antonio has forfeited his bond and Shylock seeks to collect his debt. In the famous trial scene, Bassanio tries to plead for his friends life, though to no avail. Shylock sticks to the letter of the law seeking revenge. Not until, Portia arrives dressed as a male lawyer does she turn Shylock's blind pride against him. Destroyed Shylock is undone and looses everything. The lovers collect at Belmont afterwards to reveal the disguises of the trial scene and work through a small ruse regarding a ring that Portia and Nerissa concoct to test Bassanio's and Gratiano's love for them. A happy ending for a comedy, the lovers win out in the end but the victory seems muted in regards to what happens with Shylock. Shakespeare takes a formulaic story and transforms them into a parody on materialness and shallowness of love and creates one of his more human characters, who is undone by his own shortsightedness. Enjoyable as a physical and verbal comedy, and thought provoking on many levels. Merchant of Venice continues to be one of the Bard's most talked about works.
Below left, a thoughtful Shylock (Basil Meola) ponders on his revenge. Below right, Bassanio (John Trigonis) and Gratiano (Spiro Papas) discuss their upcoming trip to Belmont. Photo taken at Shipyard Park, Hoboken, NJ.
Launcelot Gobbo (Chris Van Dijk) tries to dupe his blind father Old Gobbo (Charles J. Roby)
Above, the ever lively Salerio (Diana Hawthorne - left) and Solanio (Heather Girardi). Picture - Shipyard Park, Hoboken, NJ. Below left & right, more of the Gobbo scenes. Photos take at Ellsworth Park, Union City, NJ
Below, Bassanio receives word of Antonio's upcoming trial as Jessica (Vanessa Lema), Lorenzo (Jon Crefeld) and Portia (Elizabeth Sugarman) look on. Photos taken in the Stratford Library.
Below, a choosing of the caskets with the Prince of Morocco (David Law).
Below center, a scene from Antonio's (William Schneller, center) trial with Shylock (Basil Meola) and the Duke of Venice (David Law).
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