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Larry Littany Litt
The Shylock and The Shakespeareans
Written and Directed by Edward Einhorn
New Ohio Theater
154 Christopher St., NYC
Reviewed June 14, 2023 by Larry Litt
How much past and current antisemitism and Jewish paranoia is caused by William Shakespeare’s dramedy “Merchant of Venice?” That I believe is the question playwright and philosopher Edward Einhorn is trying to answer in "The Shylock and The Shakespeareans." Though he doesn’t answer that question he shows us how much trouble and pain “Merchant of Venice” has caused for both Jews and society.
We’re seeing a version of Jewish Venice through the eyes of brave but necessarily compliant Jacob the Jeweler (Jeremy Kareken) and his love besotted daughter Jessica (Yael Haskel). Jacob is Einhorn’s version of Shylock, shorn of his malevolence. Jessica is a newly baptized Christian. Their lives are made miserable by their former servant Gobbo (Craig Anderson), a violent antisemite and conniving politician of the lowest order. The whole social order of the day is rife with nasty aspersions about cannibalism and grifting.
The playwright calls this play a humorous retelling of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Perhaps I missed the humor because I’m Jewish. Perhaps the Jim Crow attitude of the official court and it’s hypocritical judge Portia (Nina Mann) was meant to amuse.
If you aspire to understand Merchant of Venice this isn’t the play that will reveal anything new. It does tell well of the horrors Jews faced in the Christian world. But is it all Shakespeare’s fault? That’s for you to decide.
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