California Shakespeare Ensemble
theSpace on the Mile
It should be noted at the outset that this show would have achieved 5 stars (*****) had it been a production of "Merchant of Venice". (see below)
The California Shakespeare Ensemble has collected speeches from some of Shakespeare's villains. But there are also some that are not villains, like Romeo and Juliet.
This is a popular format for companies to examine Shakespeare without having to commit to an entire play. And that way, one can do the best bits. Or ones favorite bits. Or the familiar bits.
And so here we have speeches and scenes from The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth. Some love scenes, but more sword fighting. High marks to the fight choreographer.
Under the capable direction of Brian Elerding, who also plays a respectable Witch, Mercutio, and Antonio, this collection comes together sufficiently.
Elerding has opted to use little set pieces, chairs and costume suggestions. The cast seems to work well together, some stronger than others.
Aaron Leddick makes a solid Romeo to Anastasia Leddick’s engaging and whimsical Juliet. Roddy Jessup and Samantha Sloyan seem to miss passion in the Macbeths relationship. This may be a fault that lies at the feet of director Elerding. That said,
This is a two-star production for the most part.
The other two stars are for JERMEY RADIN and his intelligent interpretation and performance as Shylock. It is subtle, thoroughly justified, seamless, and transparent. He makes if very clear that Shylock is not a villian but a man much wronged and maligned, so challenged he is forced to step up to the defend his right to the bond rather than to forgive it. Shylock is not in the least unreasonable. And when the tallit and Tzitzit are torn from his hands at the end of the play, forced to become a christian, your sympathy is with Shylock.
If he has not done a full production of "Shylock" someone needs to build one around him. It’s well worth seeing Shakespeare’s Villains to be enraptured by Mr. Radin's performance. One would be hard pressed to find a better Shylock.
Reviewer: Catherine Lamm