Men’s Naked Shakespeare’s cast of The Merchant of Venice is “so fancy,” and they let everyone in the audience know as soon as the doors to the Sound and Movement room in the PAC open. The audience enters the slightly less than grand Sound and Movement space to find it refurbished with plastic curtains, chairs, and a simple but effective lighting system. The cast sits behind the plastic curtains waiting to begin the show, except Sam Henneberry who awaits his encounter with Shylock, the Jewish moneylender, at the foot of the stage.
The company portrays Shylock with a bare puppet armed by three men (David North, Edunn Levy, and Jasen Vita). They take turns speaking as Shylock, delivering more depth to the character than a mono-faced puppet normally receives. Despite Shylock’s lack of humor or humanity, the puppeteers bring the character to the fore as one of the greatest delights of the play through his detailed movements and unique personality. No beat was lost in the puppet’s expression because every moment stayed true to human movement. Just like a human, Shylock felt a bead of sweat roll down his face so he wiped his cheek, with either his hand or a fistful of currency.
The company further delights the audience with frequent and somewhat random choreographed dances and songs. The play begins with a dance to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”, and more pop music makes its way into the performance. Every dance elevates the energy level in the theater and, with expert placement, draws the audience’s attention back just when the interest begins to subside. It also showcases the talented cast, such as the vocal talent of Everett Irving and physical skill of David North.
Everett Irving draws consistent laughs throughout the show for his Pretty Little Liars worthy performance as Shylock’s daughter Jessica. He delivers every line just like that one overly dramatic Jewish teenage girl everyone knows to the great joy of every viewer. Zach Lusk expertly portrays Jessica’s Christian lover, Lorenzo, through several beautifully genuine moments. Sam Henneberry stands out in this production as Antonio, the not so straight man, delivering every line as if his life truly depends upon it. Maxwell Hegley plays his best friend, Bassanio, with excellent depth, and he displays his excellent comic timing as a lover trying to choose a box. As a lover, he seems like an obvious pick for the beautiful Portia, played by Collin Bradley, with the help of her maid Nerissa, played by Alex Emond. Nerissa eventually finds love for herself with Gratiano, portrayed by Elias Higham. The rest of the excellent cast includes the comedic Richard Bucey as Launcelot and the talented Adam Sherman as Tubal (Classic Tubal), Balthazar, and the Duke of Venice.
Men’s Naked Shakespeare’s production of The Merchant of Venice finds moments of laugh out loud comedy and genuine reality. Joe Faragher’s brilliant direction, combined with the company’s talent and testosterone, makes for an evening of Shakespeare too good to miss.
by Aidan Cleary '17
photos by Ellie Brumbaum '17