Tag Archives: Merchant of Venice

Ashland 4: the quality of mercy, the surprise of love

Antonio (Jonathan Haugen, left), Shylock (Anthony Heald, center) and Bassanio (Danforth Comins) discuss the terms of Antonio's bond. Photo by Jenny Graham.

By Bob Hicks

Art Scatter’s ramble through the Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s 75th anniversary season is closer to its end than its beginning, and it strikes us once again how much this thicket of theater interconnects. A lot of that has to do with the nature of rotating repertory, which gives audiences the chance to see the same actors in a variety of roles and a variety of plays.

Amali Balash (Lisa McCormick) shows off her new dress for her first date with her anonymous pen pal. Photo by Jenny Graham.Brooke Parks and Christian Barillas, for instance, who play sister and brother Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night, return as sister and brother Caroline and Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice. Lisa McCormick, who calculates her future so carefully as the practical Charlotte Lewis in P&P, stumbles headstrong into love as the shopgirl heroine in She Loves Me. Dawn-Lyen Gardner, survivor of rape and warfare in Ruined, becomes a lucky lady-in-waiting in The Merchant of Venice. One way or another, love is in the air all over these plays. And couldn’t Merchant almost have been titled Pride and Prejudice?

Sometimes the connecting game is tougher. What could the troubling and abrasive Merchant of Venice and the little musical gem She Loves Me have in common? Not a lot, unless you consider that the source material for She Loves Me (and for the movies Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail) is the Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo, and then go a step further to remember that the Hungary of 1937, the year that Laszlo wrote his little bubble of innocence, held little truck with Jews and would as soon have done without them — a desire that was in the process of being satisfied.

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