Shakespeare’s Most Controversial Story as a Dark One-Act Play

Readers Theatre Repertory distilled Shakespeare’s polemical play “The Merchant of Venice” to its darkest essence on November 14-15, with THE TRIAL OF SHYLOCK. RTR’s one-act offering was “Act IV, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.”

Director David Berkson said “The trial scene in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is the mother of all courtroom dramas. ‘Inherit the Wind,’ ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ and even ‘Perry Mason’ owe a huge debt to the way that Shakespeare works at our sympathies, builds the suspense, and finally pulls out the rug with a surprise ending. This is a politically wrenching and provocative piece, but it’s also incredibly exciting theatre.”

Explosive and tragically contemporary, the trial scene in “The Merchant of Venice” is one of Shakespeare’s most famous… and infamous. Audiences are still shocked as Shakespeare destroys the medieval, anti-Semitic stereotype of the Jewish moneylender in Shylock: neither hero nor villain, but a target of bigotry and hatred. When pushed too far by his Christian persecutors, he turns to the law to seek justice — only to find himself the victim of a cruel and ironic reversal of fortune.

Berkson, a Shakespeare scholar, Director of Education for RTR and former Director of Education for Marin Shakespeare Company, hoped that after the play was over, the audience would linger to discuss and debate the story; as they have done since Shakespeare’s time.

Sam Mowry played Shylock, with Jill Westerby as Portia. Rounding out the stellar cast: David Bodin, Jane Clark, Andy Hillstrom, Garland Lyons, Lucy Walker, Molly Walker and Jonah Weston.

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