Al Pacino Stars in Broadway Production Of ‘The Merchant of Venice’

Al Pacino Stars in Broadway Production Of ‘The Merchant of Venice’

Anyone can act in the movies. A good director and fancy editing can make even the biggest stiff seem natural and believable.

However, not every film star can act on stage. You need to be a really good actor to be in a Broadway play. You can fake anything while walking the boards. That’s why you’ll never see a production of God of Carnage starring Tara Reid, Megan Fox, Ashton Kutcher, and Ben Affleck.

Furthermore, not every stage actor can do Shakespeare. To do the Poet of Avon’s plays you need to be a great actor. You need to be a talent like Al Pacino.

The Oscar winning actor is currently starring in a production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice running at the Broadhurst Theatre (235 West 44th Street). The show officially opened on Broadway Nov. 13 and is set to close Jan. 09, 2011.

Pacino plays the Jewish moneylender, Shylock, in The Bard’s classic play of love, money, and anti-Semitism. The legendary film actor also played Shylock in Michael Radford’s 2004 film adaptation. That was also the first time anyone had made a full-length film, with sound and in English, of the play.

If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out “which one is the Merchant of Venice” it’s the play with the “pound of flesh,” the three caskets, and the “if you prick us, do we not bleed” speech.

‘The Merchant Of Venice’ At A Glance

  • Written sometime between 1556 and 1558.
  • First known performance occurred in spring of 1605.
  • The play is classified as a comedy in the “First Folio.”
  • The “merchant” of Venice is actually the character Antonio, not Shylock.

Now, Pacino doing Shakespeare may seem like fodder for a Saturday Night Live skit. You know the bit, some comedian imitates Pacino from Scent of a Woman while reciting Shakespeare: “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Whoo-ah.”

Laugh all you want, but Pacino is absolutely mesmerizing as Shylock. He steals every scene he’s in.

There are several other good performances in the production—Lily Rabe as Portia, Bryon Jennings as Antonio, Jesse L. Martin as Gratiano—but Pacino’s Shylock is worth the price of a Merchant of Venice ticket alone. I would expect him to receive a Tony nomination.

Overall, the play is good but not great. Director Daniel Sullivan tried to take this Shakespeare hybrid (not really a tragedy but extremely dark for a comedy) and infused it with energy and humor.

He succeeded in the energy category as the three hour production is expertly paced, but his attempts at humor don’t always sit well with the play’s serious subject matter. Some may welcome the levity, but for devotees of Shakespeare, the yuks will seem out of place and insensitive.

You probably won’t rank this Merchant of Venice as your favorite Shakespeare production of all-time, but you definitely won’t put it in last place. And as I alluded to earlier, you’ve got to go just so you can see Pacino’s fabulous Shylock.

So unless you despise Al Pacino and/or loathe Shakespeare’s work, this production will be well worth your time and money.

To re-familiarize yourself with The Merchant of Venice, Land of Punt has compiled a list of the play’s most memorable lines.

Famous Lines From ‘The Merchant Of Venice’

  • God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.
  • When he is best, he is a little worse than a man; and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.
  • The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
  • It is a wise father that knows his own child.
  • In the twinkling of an eye.
  • All that glisters is not gold.
  • If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
  • I never knew so young a body with so old a head.
  • He is well paid that is well satisfied.
  • This night methinks is but the daylight sick.

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