Cincinnati Shakespeare Company concludes its fantastic and popular eighteenth season with William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" opening tonight, May 11. This production features CSC Producing Artistic Director Brian Isaac Phillips as Shylock, CSC Ensemble Member Kelly Mengelkoch as Portia and introducing to Cincinnati audiences, Jared Joplin as Antonio, the Merchant of Venice. "The Merchant of Venice" opens tonight, May 11 and runs through June 3 2012. The production design is generously sponsored by Taft, Stettinius and Hollister.
In one of the Bard's most controversial and thrilling plays, Antonio (Jared Joplin) covers a debt for his friend Bassanio (Billy Chace) who will use the money to woo the delightful Portia (Kelly Mengelkoch). The loan is secured from the complicated and persecuted Shylock (Brian Isaac Phillips), who has much reason to resent Antonio. Shylock agrees to lend the money at no interest save a "pound of your fair flesh…" When it seems that Shylock's debt will go unpaid, Antonio must face a terrible fate. The matter is brought to the courts of Venice in Shakespeare's original courtroom battle, where Portia disguises herself to save the best friend of the man she loves. "The Merchant of Venice" comes to life across lines of religion, race and wrongdoing.
CSC Artistic Associate Jeremy Dubin returns to the director's chair at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company following his previous celebrated productions of "An Ideal Husband", "Twelfth Night" and "Engaged!". Mr. Dubin says of "The Merchant of Venice" that "the play continues to fascinate, to incite controversy, to spark heated, even vitriolic debate. This play has been twisted, squeezed man-handled and molded to fit every conceivable political agenda and cultural sensibility. It was used by Nazis as anti-Jewish propaganda, it was used by Zionists to support the creation of a Jewish homeland. Shylock has been a comedic villain, a surrealist nightmare, a hapless victim and a tragic hero. In attempts to solve the play's "problems", it has been subject to productions where, according to Arden's editor, John Drakakis, 'the novelty of the staging assumed a greater importance than the play itself.' We will not do that. Let's instead honor and admire the head-scratching, brow-furrowing complexity obdurateness of it. Let us acknowledge and appreciate a play that makes us uncomfortable because it has no easy solution. For this is, I have come to realize, what I love about the play."
Brian Isaac Phillips, CSC's Producing Artistic Director, will be featured as Shylock. He has most recently been seen on the stage in Cincinnati in "Collapse" at Know Theatre, "Dead Man's Cell Phone" and "The Seafarer" at Ensemble Theatre and "The Goat or Who is Silvia?" at New Stage Collective. At home at CSC, Mr. Phillips has been seen as Hamlet in "Hamlet", Hal in "Henry IV", Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Stanley in "A Streetcar Named Desire". Portia is played by eighth year ensemble member, Kelly Mengelkoch. This season, Kelly has been featured as Queen Katherine in "Henry VIII: All is True", Elinor in "Sense & Sensibility" and as The Princess of France in "Love's Labour's Lost". She was featured last season in "Blithe Spirit" as Elvira and in "Pride & Prejudice" as Jane Bennett. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is proud to introduce Jared Joplin to Cincinnati Shakespeare audiences. Some of his most memorable roles include "Player #2" in "Shipwrecked…" (along side his father Joneal Joplin and his sister Jennifer Joplin), Young Scrooge/Ghost of Christmas Future in "A Christmas Carol" (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, directed by Michael Haney) and Donalbain in "Macbeth" (directed by Rick Sordelet). Mr. Joplin recently spent the start of the decade in Public Services for Cirque du Soleil's North American tour of "Kooza".