Bards of Birmingham's "The Merchant of Venice": Review
by Daniel Blokh, 4/28/2016
With Shakespeare’s plays remaining staples of classic literature for many centuries, it is hard to think of any original retellings of his works that haven’t been done yet. But Bards of Birmingham’s The Merchant of Venice does exactly this, reimagining the classic Shakespeare play as though it were set in fascist Italy. The characters fit right into this premise in a way that seems purposeful rather than gimmicky. In the hands of a different group, this performance would have been hard to pull off, but the dedicated talent of the actors and director is able to execute the play perfectly.
From its beginning, The Merchant of Venice pulls you in with enticing characters and vibrant humor. The sets and costumes easily draw the eye, and the skill of the actors catches you off guard. The play is tonal, and the cast has a lot of singing talent along with their acting skill, which surfaces during several songs performed throughout the play. The first half of the play tells two stories; the tale of a deal between two people, and the tale of a woman looking for a husband. This first act is enough to get you entangled in the story, but it is during the second act that the play hits hardest. With stunning performances from the cast (in particular, ASFA’s own Emma Camp, Abbe Coulter, and Dimari Jordan), this second half of the play will catch you off guard time and time again.
Both imaginative and riveting, the play is a comedy, but there are many dramatic moments throughout the performance that will shock you and pull you in. And, though there are many plays out there that are easily forgettable, Bards of Birmingham’s The Merchant of Venice manages to stay with you long after the play ends.
Come see the performance this Friday, Saturday, or Sunday at the Unity Church of Birmingham. The schedule can be found here: http://www.bardsofbirmingham.com/