The Merchant of Venice, With Al Pacino, Lily Rabe, Byron Jennings, Opens in Central Park June 30

By Adam Hetrick
30 Jun 2010

Lily Rabe and Al Pacino
Lily Rabe and Al Pacino
Photo by Joan Marcus

The Shakespeare in the Park production of Merchant of Venice, starring Academy Award-winning actor Al Pacino as moneylender Shylock, officially opens June 30 at the Delacorte Theater.

Directed by Tony Award winner Daniel Sullivan (Proof), The Merchant of Venice follows The Winter's Tale, which began previews June 10. Both productions will run in repertory through Aug. 1.

The Winter's Tale, helmed by Michael Greif, will open July 1. A unified company of actors is employed for both productions.

Theatregoers take note: Although The Public Theater has billed Merchant to officially open to the press on June 30, there is actually a performance of The Winter's Tale scheduled. There is no performance of either production scheduled for July 1, which serves as the opening night of The Winter's Tale.

This isn't the first time Pacino has sought a pound of flesh: He also starred in Michael Radford's screen adaptation of Merchant to acclaim in 2004. There is also talk of a possible Broadway transfer of this production.



Joining Pacino is Lily Rabe (Steel Magnolias, Heartbreak House) as Portia. Both Pacino and Rabe exclusively appear in Merchant. Winter's Tale principals Linda Emond and Rubin Santiago-Hudson only appear in that production.

The company also features Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Young Shepherd/Lord/Launcelot Gobbo), Jesse L. Martin (Polixenes/Gratiano), Max Wright (Old Shepherd/Prince of Arragon), Bill Heck (Lord/Lorenzo), Hamish Linklater (Autolycus/Lord/Bassanio), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Paulina/Nerissa), Gerry Bamman (Antigonus/Duke of Venice), Francois Battiste (Florizel/Lord/Salerio), Byron Jennings (Camillo/Antonio), Heather Lind (Perdita/Jessica), Nyambi Nyambi (Lord/Prince of Morocco), Matthew Rauch (Dion/Jailer/Solanio) and Richard Topol (Lord/Tubal).

The ensemble includes Happy Anderson, Liza J. Bennett, Tyler Caffall, Cary Donaldson, Luke Forbes, Bryce Gill, Shalita Grant, Jade Hawk, Bethany Heinrich, Tia James, Kelsey Kurz, Brian Macdonald, Alexander Maier, Dorien Makhloghi and Joe Short.

Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis previously spoke with Playbill.com about creating a repertory company for the 2010 Shakespeare in the Park season: "I come from a tradition of companies, I've almost always worked with companies. Particularly with Shakespeare, the way you get work with the highest quality is to have artists work together over time. This is the smallest possible unit of time that we can form for a company," he said.

"What I hope is that the audience is going to get some of the pleasures of rep that New York audiences have been denied in major venues," he added. "The ability to go to the theatre two nights in a row and see two different shows and see the same actors assaying completely different roles is delightful. It's really fun for audiences."

Designing the productions are Mark Wendland (scenic design), Jess Goldestein (costume design for Merchant), Clint Ramos (costume design for Winter's Tale), Kenneth Posner (lighting design) and Acme Sound Partners (sound design).

Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Tom Kitt composed the score to The Winter's Tale, while Dan Moses Schreier penned original music for Merchant of Venice.

Performances of Shakespeare in the Park are Tuesday-Sunday at 8 PM. Tickets are free and are available on the day of the performance (two per person) at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park beginning at 1 PM, or by entering the Public's online ticketing lottery at ShakespeareinthePark.org.

The closest entrances to the Delacorte are located at 81st Street and Central Park West or 79th Street and Fifth Avenue.