“Merchant of Venice”, Central Park, August 1, 2010
by Ben Levine, NYU
‘Al Pacino captures the tragedy, complexity, and stereotype that is Shylock in his show-stopping performance in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice…The Delacorte Theater in Central Park was transformed into a wonderful, simplistic scene… The stage was set up with concentric rings of tracks on which black metal set pieces and fences glided back and forth…Framed by trees and the romantic backdrop of Belvedere Castle, the theater seemed totally removed from the bustling city around it…
Merchant, like all of Shakespeare’s plays, can be understood and performed in many different ways… this play can either be a tragic, sympathetic story about the plight of the Jewish people in 17th Century Europe, or an anti-Semitic romp to please and entertain the equally intolerant audiences of Shakespeare’s day. However, this performance of Merchant left…us cheering for the complex and tormented Shylock.
In the play’s most moving and poignant moment, Shylock the Jew is baptized in an actual pool of water in center stage. The lights were dimmed except for a shaft of blinding light in which Pacino dragged himself, in a procession reminiscent of Christ’s Passion, to the rippling pool of water. There, as he was thrown into the baptismal waters, not a word was said but so much was understood. It was telling that in this scene with no lines and simple action, a slow but sincere applause rang out as Pacino left the stage for the last time.
This year’s run of Merchant has been so successful, it is moving to Broadway for a limited run this coming fall. It is sure to sell out quickly, but it is nice to know that this terrific performance will continue to captivate audiences for a little bit longer.’ (excerpted from original review)