THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum
Opens: June 10, 2017
Closes: October 1, 2017
Alan Blumenfeld stars as Shylock in what is arguably one of the most controversial plays ever written. In 2017, Shakespeare’s comic tragedy continues to raise penetrating questions about racism, religion, mercy and justice.
Theatricum Botanicum has been named “One of the 50 Coolest Places in Los Angeles” by Buzz magazine, “One of Southern California’s most beguiling theater experiences” by Sunset magazine, and “Best Theater in the Woods” by the LA Weekly. “The enchantment of a midsummer night at Theatricum Botanicum [makes it] crystal clear why audiences have been driving up into the hills since Theatricum’s maiden season way back in 1973. Summer Shakespeare doesn’t get any better than this,” writes StageSceneLA. Says Los Angeles magazine, “The amphitheater feels like a Lilliputian Hollywood Bowl, with pre-show picnics and puffy seat cushions, yet we were close enough to see the stitching on the performers costumes. Grab a blanket and a bottle and head for the hills.”
The amphitheater is terraced into the hillside, so audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Patrons are welcome to arrive early and picnic before a performance.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290; $10-$38.50; (310) 455-3723; www.theatricum.com
"This review also covers "Parade" at the Chance Theater in Anaheim: Two successive nights of theatergoing, two Jews lynched, one by law, the other by rope: William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1597) and the American musical Parade (1998), book by Alfred Uhry, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, which take us back to Atlanta, Ga., in 1913, when Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-raised Jew making his life with his new Southern-born wife Lucille, was put on trial for the murder of a 13-year-old girl."
"Ellen Geer’s staging at the outdoor Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum fearlessly tackles the theme of anti-Semitism raised by the play head-on, with the benefit of a commanding performance from Alan Blumenfeld as Shylock."
"Director Ellen Geer does a compelling job of helming the production, and all the characters are brought to life by a very talented group of actors. As always, the outdoor free-flowing ambiance of the Theatricum Botanicum lends itself to Shakespeare’s plays. Beth Glasner’s costumes bring the audience back a few centuries, and the entire production team fulfills its mission with care and competence. Let’s face it. Shakespeare never grows old, and this production breathes new life into a classic."
"William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice mixes romantic comedy with tense, emotional cruelty, prompting laughter in an audience as well as dismay at the outrageous usage that a Jewish moneylender, Shylock (Alan Blumenfeld in a terrific performance), must endure. "
"Take a beautiful outdoor setting, terrific acting, and a comedy/drama by William Shakespeare, and what do you have? A late season treat at Theatricum Botanicum with the artfully staged, politically potent The Merchant of Venice. The theater itself is always an experience, and it fits the play perfectly here, the outdoor setting perhaps not that dissimilar to theaters of Shakespeare’s time. Certainly viewing a stellar performance such as this in such an intimate and outdoor setting enhances the play’s power."
"The plays of this season are meant to have audiences consider the lives of others and to provoke discussions that can lead to a better understanding of one another. What I heard after the play was just as interesting as the play itself, and it is always comforting to see that most of us long for unity and acceptance."