Karin Coonrod’s “The Merchant of Venice” is Comedic, Romantic and Tragic

William Edward Beavers V, Contributing Writer

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The cast of The Merchant of Venice takes center stage at Kasser Theater this week. –Photo courtesy of Marina Levitskaya

On Friday, Sept. 22, I watched Karin Coonrod’s direction of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. I have read the play for about a week for my theater class, and it was really amazing seeing all five acts come to life. It had an excellent ensemble, beautifully-orchestrated music, wonderful lighting, and faithfulness to Shakespeare’s original work. Tony Awards and more for everyone involved in this peak performance. Overall, I absolutely loved it.

The Merchant of Venice is set in 16th century Italy where the eponymous merchant Antonio, convinces his longtime friend Bassanio, to borrow three thousand ducats from Jewish moneylender Shylock so that he may be financially eligible to court heiress Portia of Belmont.

Shylock agrees, on the grounds that if Bassanio does not repay him within three months, a pound of Antonio’s flesh must be taken for the debt. Though Bassanio is hesitant to let his friend pay a hefty price, Antonio agrees. Antonio’s ships failed to return to harbor, his primary source of income, which means he can’t make the money to return the three thousand ducats. The fourth act of the play primarily takes place in the court of the Duke of Venice, where Shylock attempts to collect his pound. Bassanio and Portia intervene to try to get Shylock to be merciful on him and to let Bassanio repay Antonio’s debt.

When I saw the show, I loved seeing the themes of loyalty and perseverance brought to the stage. For example, I have noticed that even though it was very risky, Antonio proved to be a loyal and helpful friend when he borrowed a huge amount of money to help Bassanio get closer to being able to marry Portia who is wealthy. I felt sorry for Shylock because he received abuse as an outsider in Venice. Even if it didn’t bring the best of outcomes, it still felt good to see him stand up against discrimination due to his religion. After the Princes of Morocco and Arragon failed, I was amazed to find out that Bassanio managed to pick the right casket with Portia’s picture in it, which allowed him to marry her. This proves that he was not going to stop fighting for his true love.

Comedic, romantic, and tragic are three words I would use to describe this fabulous production brought over to Montclair State’s Kasser Theater. With the direction of Karin Coonrad and starring a wonderful group of thespians such as Dietrice A. Bolden and Sorab Wadia, this must-see play is based on a Shakespearean classic.

During my high school years, I have read and seen the plays and cinematic productions of Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing. This production would be the best adaptation of Shakespeare’s works that I’ve seen in a while. I would say the cast had truly honored what the great William Shakespeare stood for: bringing the power of thespian art to those who love it and want to/need to observe it! I highly recommend becoming familiarized with the play and reading it prior to seeing it on the main stage.

Karin Coonrod is the director of the Shakespearean classic The Merchant of Venice. –Photo courtesy Marina Levitskaya
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