Merchant of Venus
June 6 - June 16, 2013
Zero Point Theater’s new staging of Merchant of Venice, while essentially true to Shakespeare’s text, is set against the background of a Jazz/Blues World during Prohibition, in a Venice very like (but not) New Orleans.
Antonio, our Merchant of “Venus” (one of Shakespeare’s many puns), is a rumrunner whose understanding of love is sadly warped by his mercantile nature. He so monetizes love that he risks his very life borrowing from Shylock to provide money to Bassanio, who he achingly loves but, under the strictures of society, he can never have. He even gives the money to Bassanio to woo a woman.
Portia, whose own father did not see her as capable to choose her own mate, is one of the most brilliant people around. She cares little about her wealth, her beauty and her sexiness except as tools. She so desperately wants to be respected for her mind, in a world in which only men can be, that she risks exposure and ridicule by disguising herself as a man to argue law in the bright spotlight of the Venetian Court.
Shylock is a black woman who owns a Speakeasy Jazz Club, and a devout Jew. She struggles under both the disrespect of her white Christian competitors, and the pain of the hard choices, unfair deprivations, and compromises in her values she made to get where she is. In her desire to ensure her daughter Jessica a better life than she herself had, Shylock so represses and keeps Jessica cloistered at home that Jessica elopes with a Christian, and a lot of Shylock’s money. Shylock’s dogged insistence on a literal enforcement of Antonio’s bond in order to gain the respect of the law backfires, and leads to the loss of all she holds dear.
Zero Point’s production of Merchant will challenge the audience to recognize and re-think its own perspectives on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and the us versus them struggles which either bind us together in a sense of security, or expose us to biting and lonely pain, and at worst threaten our sense of personal identity and value.