Shylock. He's Shakespeare's most controversial character, so why not write a controversial play just about him?
That's what Mark Leiren-Young has done in Shylock, a satirical work premiering at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre as part of its "Season of Premieres" at the Studio second stage. Shylock begins previews Feb. 24 and opens Feb. 25 for a run through March 8.
A one-man show, Shylock shows a Jewish actor accused of putting forth an anti-Semitic interpretation of Shylock in a production of The Merchant of Venice. The actor then uses a post-show talk-back to counter the charges, as well as to discuss art, history, censorship and racism.
In Merchant, Shylock loans another merchant money and then demands repayment, even though his client's ships have sunk and there's no way to repay the loan. The Jewish merchant's inflexibility stems from pride and a desire to avenge his day-to-day treatment at the hands of Christians. Ultimately, though, Shylock's daughter marries out of the race, and Shylock is humiliated by the Christian court, cheated out of his bond, and forced to convert. The Merchant of Venice is intended as a comedy.
William Leach, who appeared at the Walnut in Faith Healer, plays the actor under fire. Other plays by Canadian dramatist Leiren-Young include Blueprints From Space. Designing Shylock are Thom Bumblauskas (set), Ashlynn Billingsley (costumes), Troy Martin-O'Shia (lighting) and Scott Smith (sound). For tickets ($15-$25) and information on Shylock at the Walnut Street Theatre's Independent Studio on 3 call (215) 574-3550 x. 4.
Upcoming shows in the Walnut's "Season of Premieres" series include:
March 24-April 5: Greytop In Love, by Alan Brody. William Roudebush directs Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire) in this romantic comedy about a veteran journalist and a young writer competing for a beautiful coworker.
April 21-May 3: The Gift, a world premiere by Walnut veteran Will Stutts, about a famous novelist giving a childhood friend a leg up in the literary world: by writing a book and allowing her to put her name on it.
May 19-31: By George, a world premiere by Frank Ferrante, playing playwright George S. Kaufman.
-- By David Lefkowitz