District Merchants (South Coast Rep)

img_5736District Merchants by Aaron Posner is a solid piece of theater. The last production that we saw of Mr. Posner’s work was The Tempest and it blew us away – there was magic that Teller from Penn & Teller fame helped create, live music that was written by Tom Waits, and even two dancers who played Caliban. So our expectations were very high for District Merchants and it didn’t quite hit it. Like all SCR productions, the sets and costumes are fantastic. The acting was superb and the highlight was seeing each of their monologues or asides to the audience. They gave us insight into who these people are. For Shylock, you felt sympathetic to a character who is usually portrayed as the antagonist. For other characters like Lancelot, you couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

To me the villain of the play was not Shylock, but the racist beliefs and world that they all lived in. Each character had varying levels of racism and it was interesting to see how that influenced how they interacted with one another.

The best parts of Posner’s Merchants is when the show deviates from the Shakespearean tale.  Having to stick to the plot of Merchants of Venice took the wind out of the sails for me. The show felt most alive when it deviated from the Shakespearean classic and went into uncharted areas. It was a little too safe for me, but I still enjoyed it. Get rush tickets so you don’t have to pay a “Pound of Flesh.” 😉

– Trevor

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