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Modern-day Americans identify with Merchant

Old English playwright retells Italian tale Americans of another age cant help but love


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: RIO - Bassanio (Sam Burns) courts Portia (Jenny Newbry) while Nerissa (Elizabeth Gibbs) watches from a distance, in the Portland Actors Ensemble production of The Merchant of Venice, coming soon to Meinig Memorial Park.Believe it or not, but The Bard is coming to Sandy again.

The Portland Actors Ensemble makes the works of Shakespeare accessible at a reasonable price to thousands in the greater Portland area.

How reasonable is free?

Thespian members of the nonprofit acting company will be in Sandy to perform “The Merchant of Venice” beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 7, in Meinig Park.

“Merchant” is a convoluted tale of greed driving men (and women) to acts that could mean the loss of fortunes and their cultural heritage as well as stature in the community and easily the end of their lives.

At its backbone, “Merchant” is a tale built on the foundation of marrying for money instead of love. There’s even a 16th-century bachelor game with the prize being an unmarried maiden, who happens to be rich.

This is a story easy for modern society’s people to identify with anywhere in the world. Besides greed, these 16th-century characters carry out bizarre schemes that could rival some of the crazy ploys Lucille Ball hatched in the 20th century.

In these characters one sees so many identifiable traits such as deceit and lying, risk-taking, cross-dressing, bigotry and religious discrimination, child abuse, theft (from one’s own father), even identity theft (using a friend’s credit for a personal benefit).

This modern-day English understanding of human nature in the Renaissance is possible, even though the roots of this tale were written by an Italian in a far-away country in the late 14th century and then rewritten by William Shakespeare about 200 years later.

All of the special costumes and elite language will be found on the Theater in the Woods stage after the Fourth of July weekend’s fireworks have fizzled and died.

Theater in the Woods is the small amphitheater in Meinig Park, which generally fills up quickly. So that everyone can enjoy the show, bring a stadium chair or a blanket. Folding chairs and high-back lounge chairs do not fit in the amphitheater.

For more information, visit portlandactors.org.