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'Merchant of Venice' closes out Cincnnati Shakespeare Company season, May 11

Brian Isaac Phillips as Shylock, Kelly Mengelkoch as Portia & Jared Joplin as Antonio
Brian Isaac Phillips as Shylock, Kelly Mengelkoch as Portia & Jared Joplin as Antonio
Jeanna Vella

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company closes its 18th season with one of the Bard’s most controversial plays, “The Merchant of Venice,” opening May 11.

“It was used by Nazis as anti-Jewish propaganda,” said director Jeremy Dubin.“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.”

“The play continues to fascinate, to incite controversy, to spark heated, even vitriolic debate,” he said. “This play has been twisted, squeezed man-handled and molded to fit every conceivable political agenda and cultural sensibility.”

In attempts to solve the play’s “problems”, Dubin said, 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,” Dubin said. “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.”

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.

  • Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday from May 11to June 3 (no performance May 13).
  • Preview performances are on May 9 & 10, and tickets are only $14.
  • Single ticket prices range from $22-$28 on Thursday Nights and Sunday Matinees and from $26-$32 on Friday and Saturday Nights.
  • To purchase tickets or for more information, call the CSC Box Office at 513.381.BARD (2273) ext. 1, or go online at


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