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The Merchant of Venice



Director Barbara Gaines tries moral equivocation to address the most problematic of Shakespeare's problem plays: Shylock is cruel, but the Christians drive him to it. The scene where Scott Jaeck's choleric Antonio spits in Shylock's yarmulke before shoving it on his head is particularly harsh. As Harold Bloom points out, the play only really works if Shylock is a slapstick comic villain, and this handsome but somewhat airless production is far too polite to take that route, leaving us with no one to feel strongly about, except possibly Shylock's anguished daughter. Mike Nussbaum is mostly magnificent as the moneylender, but his multilayered characterization feels out of place in the anti-Semitic minstrel show Shakespeare created. Through 11/12: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 4 and 8:30 PM, Sun 3 PM. Also 1 PM Wed. Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600. $48-$65.

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