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Shut Up It’s Shakespeare! goes to Wall Street with modern adaptation of ‘Merchant of Venice’

Laurel Delany, ‘Doah Staff Writer
December 4, 2013

'Doah photo by Caroline Madden

‘Doah photo by Caroline Madden

Under the direction of Allison Petrillo, Shenandoah Conservatory’s student-run Shakespeare Troupe, Shut Up It’s Shakespeare! , performed their vision of the Merchant of Venice on Nov. 23 and 24.

Members of the troupe collaborated on paring down the script from a three and a half hour run time, to a final run time of approximately two hours. Like many contemporary stagings of Shakespearean plays, Shut Up It’s Shakespeare!, or SUIS! for short, lifted the story and text of the play and placed it in a time period that would be more accessible to members of the audience.

Director Allison Petrillo and members of the troupe transported the story to Wall Street in the 1990s, and by doing so managed to place the story in a setting that illuminated the action and conflicts to audience members who would have not understood if it was placed in its native setting.

The production was exciting, nostalgic and intimate. The use of music and projectors amplified the setting and provided an anchor for the audience in the occasionally intimidating world that is Shakespeare’s language.

The troupe displayed a remarkable understanding of the language and took risks with its delivery; member Corinne Davis even rapped one of her speeches.

I loved the frenetic energy that the time period brought to the production. Petrillo managed to frame the story through 90s conventions so that even if the audience didn’t understand all of what was being said, they would be able to discern the dynamic between the characters and the general gist of what was occurring.

Senior member, Christopher George, was incredible as the infamous Shylock. George displayed remarkable precision with his performance; no gesture seemed out of place and the consistency of his character’s through-line was impressive. George managed to create a Shylock that the audience feared and sympathized with, which is quite a feat considering the traps that many actors fall into when tackling the role. Because George walked the line between ruthless and sympathetic, I was able to interpret the play with eyes unclouded by pure sympathy or pure disdain for Shylock.

In fact, I found that this production actually highlighted the fact that the protagonists were just as ruthless as Shylock was when it came to the court scene. The production really captured the “dog eats dog” attitude of Wall Street, and created a dynamic world where even the protagonists are out for themselves and willing to be just as ruthless as the antagonist.

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