Experimental artists and frequent collaborators Andrei Serban and Elizabeth Swados reunite for a production of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice at MA's American Repertory Theatre, Dec. 16-Jan. 22, 1999. The production began previews Dec. 11.
Romanian-born Serban was brought to America in 1969 by La MaMa artistic director Ellen Stewart to direct two classical plays: Pere Ubu and Arden of Faversham for her resident company. Serban quickly gained a reputation for ritualistic theatre with his productions of the Obie-winning Fragments of a Greek Trilogy (with Swados) and The Good Woman of Setzuan in the mid '70s.
Serban has also gained a reputation for reinterpreting the classics like Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at The Public, The Trojan Women, The King Stag with puppets by Julie Taymor. It's been a year of the Bard for Serban; he's directed Cymbeline for The New York Shakespeare Festival this summer and re-staged his A.R.T. production of Taming of the Shrew for La MaMa E.T.C..
Along with her numerous collaborations with Serban, Swados has composed several Broadway and Off-Broadway shows including: Runaways, Doonesbury, The Cherry Orchard, Groundhog, and The Prince and the Pauper. Swados is also the author of six children's books, three novels, and two non-fiction books.
In Venice, Shakespeare not only investigates morality in commerce but, delves into serious questioning of racial issues.. Bassanio, a Venetian nobleman who's spent his inheritance, plans to marry Portia, a wealthy heiress. His friend Antonio agrees to provide the money to fund Bassanio's quest for her hand by seeking a loan from Shylock. Shylock, a moneylender, will lend the money to Antonio but only if he stakes " a pound of flesh." The Serban & Swados Venice plays at A.R.T., Dec. 16 - Jan. 22, in repertory with Liz Diamond's production of Phaedra. For tickets or more information, call (617) 547-8300.
-- By Sean McGrath