Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shylock in...Tzitzit

Yep, that's F. Murray Abraham in tzitzit.

He's performing as Shylock in a new production of The Merchant of Venice produced by the Theatre for a New Audience.

Here's one reviewer's opinion:-

Mr. Abraham’s sure theatrical instincts have created the most authentic Shylock I’ve seen. Quite simply, you believe he exists in all his complexity. This is a Shylock who’s no longer a dramatic myth, but flesh and blood. So complete is Mr. Abraham’s rigorously intelligent, passionate performance—and Shylock is nothing if not a man governed by unruly passion—that even the hackneyed “Hath not a Jew eyes?” is delivered freshly in burning, despairing indignation, as if for the first time.

It troubled me initially that the admirable director, Darko Tresnjak, had set his minimalist production in modern dress, as though we were on Wall Street. (Shakespeare’s Venice is at best token, and the word ghetto is mentioned only once.) In any case, Mr. Abraham, dressed in a business suit and yarmulke [and tzitzit], brings an entire world onstage with him—the world history of the persecution of the Jews.

Shylock is many things, but not a hypocrite. The hypocrites are the double-dealing, “virtuous” Christian elites, with “fair” Portia, the idealized symbol of Christian virtue, the racist. (“The villainy you teach me I will execute,” goes Shylock’s infamous self-justification, not without cause). Mr. Abraham conveys a Jew who’s cultivated, pious, pedantic, loving, contemptuous, convulsive and merciless. Shylock, the usurer, is no sweetheart. But among the good things about this conflicted man are his religious faith, learning, sobriety, respect for the law, love of his daughter, reverence for his adored late wife, and blind belief in the very thing he can never have: justice.

1 comment:

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