New York City
Artemis & The Wild Things presents Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, highlighting commedia influences on Shakespeare’s characters. A popular form in Shakespeare’s day, the author incorporated a touch of commedia to underline the sublime ridiculous of human foibles.
Shylock is the commedia Pantalone, a self-made Venetian merchant. His greed lends itself to classic sight gags. He loses a coin; as he tries to pick it up, he falls. His age limits his ability to stand up easily, so he develops a convoluted and amusing physical system to rise. Portia and Bassanio are the Lovers. She becomes the Doctor of Law in the trial scene. Nerissa is the sassy servant. Portia’s suitor, the Princes of Morocco, regales her with stories of his exploits in a classic bravura. Gratiano embodies the loquacious, food-obsessed Doctor. Each event results in multi-faceted comedy. However, Shakespeare was not constrained by commedia type or text; Shakespeare transcends stock figures, subverting characters and reinventing scenarios. In this way, Shakespeare elucidates the complexities and absurdities of the self-seeking and self-righteous.
Through equal opportunity mockery, ATWT wrestles with social stigma in the logical absurd by drawing out the comedy. Humor eases and augments the pain; slapstick allows time for the characters and audience to cope with changing circumstances. The commedia cleanses the audience’s palate in between what might be described as the main courses of the characters’ torments. From an ethical perspective, the consequences of vengeful behavior may elicit sympathy at the depth of Shylock’s pathos. Resolution, if it can be called that, is ambiguous and uneasy.
Artemis Preeshl directs.
Performances begin: December 13, 2023
Final performance: December 17, 2023
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