Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Spot of Culture -- The Merchant of Venice at Lyric Theater

On Friday night I went to see the Merchant of Venice at the Lyric Theater in Hong Kong.  It was really amazing, a very good production that was thought-provoking and troubling yet humorous and entertaining and dramatic.

I miss this aspect of big city living acutely.  The museums, special exhibits, musicals, plays, dances, opera ... it was a never ending kaleidoscope of things that I loved.  So whenever something from New York or London comes through Hong Kong, I  always jump at the chance.

This particular production was produced by Jonathan Munby of the London Globe Theater.  Jonathan Pryce played Shylock and a spectacular Stefan Adegbola played the comedic clown to the hilt.

The production actually calls for two audience members to be plucked onto the stage for some improvisational theater (much to their horror and dismay!)

The costumes were gorgeous, the stage design minimal but incredibly effective.  With a few quick switches of light and drapery, the mood swung effortlessly between somber and heavy, and light and witty.

I have always found this play a bit hard to take, for the bigotry and stereotype that was probably not at all offensive during Shakespeare's time, but which is such a slap in our collective faces in the present day.  But sitting in the dark theater, watching the scenes unfold, it is disheartening to realize how many of the play's lines are still relevant, albeit in a different context.  

Is this the Bard's gift, then, to capture the timeless foibles and follies of the human condition so that, in watching his plays, we hold up a mirror and see ourselves again and again, no matter how distant in the future or the past?

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