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Jordan Hornstein as Shylock confronted in the street by a band or youthful masquers.
Jordan Hornstein as Shylock confronted in the street by a band or youthful masquers.

Theatre review: "The Merchant of Venice" at Pendragon Theatre

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The Merchant of Venice is this season's winter classic at Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake. It runs at home and around the region on various dates; check the Pendragon site below for a schedule. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at a recent performance and has our review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

Pendragon Theatre and Director Robert Pettee have put together a solid production of Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.  Although four of the actors double in a number of small roles, this is still one of the largest casts I've seen at Pendragon.  On the whole it's also fairly well balanced.  Mr. Pettee has made some judicious cuts and keeps the pace brisk.  I was amazed at the running time of only two hours including intermission.

Since the production will be touring, Kent Streed has designed a simple set of pillars and curtains that works well and involves little or no changes.  I liked the Act II use of the caskets.  Colin McKeen's lighting is effective and the projections, of which there could have been more, were good.  Mr. Streed is also responsible for the excellent costumes.  I particularly liked that for Tubal and the colorful carnival outfits.  Mr. Pettee's music choices also work well.

As for the actors, Vaughn W. Thompson gives us a rather bland Lorenzo as does Rebecca Adams as Jessica.  There's no real chemistry between them and neither shows the passion that propels them to run off.  On the other hand, Christopher McGovern clearly understands that this is a comedy, and gives us a very funny Prince of Arragon.

As Portia Donna Moschek is a bit low key, but does a nice job in the courtroom scene.  Chris Clarke is also a bit too relaxed as Bassanio.  He even plays the ring scene with one hand in his pocket.  Again, not much chemistry there.  Jordan Hornstein gives us a solid Shylock and is especially strong in the courtroom scene.

Two of the stand-outs in the cast are Clare Paulson as Nerissa and Dan Erdmann as Gratiano.  Miss Paulson gives the character just the right amount of enjoyment in the game playing and handles the language well.  Mr. Erdmann makes Gratiano an appropriately energetic firecracker - a good-time Charley with little or no conscience.  Plenty of chemistry here!

The other stand-out is Tom Delahant as Antonio.  He gives us a three-dimensional portrait of a thoughtful and honest man who is willing to give everything for his friend.

The more I think about this play the more I realize it's a comedy not so much about love, except in the case of Antonia and Jessica, but about money.  Bassanio's broke and Portia's an heiress, Jessica steals at Lorenzo's behest and they're all, again except Antonio and Jessica, playing games.  It's an especially interesting play in light of the current financial crisis.  It's like watching a bunch of high-living hedge fund managers before the collapse of the market.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE will be presented at Pendragon's theatre in Saranac Lake as well as other theatres in the region.  There are also daytime performances at a number of schools.  As I said earlier, this is a solid production of a classic that's definitely worth seeing.

On a scale of one to five the Pendragon Theatre production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE gets four and a half pine trees.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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