Theater Review (DC): Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Kennedy Center

The Merchant of Venice is generally classified as a comedy, but the Shakespeare’s Globe production emphasizes the darker aspects of the play. Shylock the Jewish moneylender, brilliantly portrayed by Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall), stands upon the stage as a sympathetic and tragic figure by the end of the evening. It’s a pity that the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts featured only five special performances in Washington, DC.

Photo of Jonathan Pryce and Dominic Mafham
Jonathan Pryce (Shylock) and Dominic Mafham (Antonio). Credit: Manuel Harlan.

Director Jonathan Munby weaves together the acting and music in a way that immerses viewers in the merriment and excesses of the Venetian setting. A masque sequence is added at the beginning with dancing, drums, and shouting wonderfully choreographed by Lucy Hind. The actors moved about in the aisles to greet us, even going so far as touching the shoulders of theatergoers hurriedly taking their seats. The opening scene also displays the outsider status of passerby Shylock when these Christian revelers cease the music and attack him. Munby confronts us with persecution and thus directs our sympathy toward Shylock from the start.

Shylock is subject to manhandling and insults by Antonio (Dominic Mafham), the titular character who borrows 3,000 ducats. Interestingly, the worst taunt is when Antonio intentionally drops Shylock’s pocket-sized book of Hebrew texts. It’s a small yet moving moment, as Pryce stoops wearily to pick up the book and reverently brushes off the dust. Continue reading “Theater Review (DC): Jonathan Pryce in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Kennedy Center”

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Cromwell’s Situation Appears Uncertain in “Wolf Hall” with Looming “Crows”

In the end, it’s the king who is the most dangerous figure. Make your move Cromwell, before it’s too late.

Caution: This post contains spoilers from the fifth episode of “Wolf Hall.”

Damian Lewis as Henry VIII. Photograph: Giles Keyte/BBC/Company Productions Ltd
Damian Lewis as Henry VIII. Photograph: Giles Keyte/BBC/Company Productions Ltd

This coming Sunday, Masterpiece on PBS will air the final chapter of “Wolf Hall.” Take the opportunity to catch up before the big finale. The fifth installment of “Wolf Hall” from last weekend is aptly named “Crows” with a marked change in Thomas Cromwell’s (Mark Rylance) circumstances. He’s always had a few adversaries to contend with but this time they are gaining ground. It’s the first time in a while that the Machiavellian administrator is scrambling on a defensive position, rather than calling the shots. Continue reading “Cromwell’s Situation Appears Uncertain in “Wolf Hall” with Looming “Crows””