Real Canaan Theatre’s inaugural production The Merchant of Venice is a fascinating take on the Shakespearean classic. Directed by Christopher Lucas, who is also the Artistic Director of the company, The Merchant of Venice uses a small but mighty cast to bring Shakespeare’s work to life. With plenty of fresh ideas to chew on, The Merchant of Venice is a fantastic way to introduce Real Canaan Theatre to the Toronto theatre scene.

The Merchant of Venice did a fantastic job of putting several ideas which I know I’ve looked at in a scholarly setting to the test on stage. One of these is the idea that perhaps Antonio and Bassanio are more than friends. There were several gestures and looks which implied that this just might be true, and especially proved interesting at the end of the play. As my partner pointed out to me, they even used what’s referred to as bisexual lighting to light the two characters in the final moments of the play. Another important element which was different was the fact that Shylock and Jessica weren’t Jewish, they’re immigrants to Venice with no specified origin. By pulling the focus away from the Christian vs. Jew dichotomy of the original text, it allows the text to be more all-encompassing. In Shakespeare’s day that dichotomy was a hot-button issue, and while it remains so, I found it an interesting experiment to see how the characters might function if that element of their beings was taken away.

            The cast was absolutely captivating; their stellar talent and ease with the language made The Merchant of Venice truly a pleasure to witness. Featuring Aaron Macpherson, Bridget Ori, Elyssia Giancola, Freya Scerri Diacono, Hadley Abrams, Kitti Laki, Roberto Ercoli, they went from character to character, accent to accent, flawlessly. There was never a question about which character they were playing or what was going on. Ercoli and Macpherson’s characterizations in particular had us all rolling in the isles with laughter. Whereas Giancola and Diacono made a delicious team as Portia and Nerissa. Ori, Abrams, and Laki all impressed me immensely with their performances, particularly in how they handled the language. These are some of Shakespeare’s most quotable lines and memorable speeches and they performed them with grace and ease. I enjoyed how the audience was engaged with by the actors throughout the performance. With such a small space, they really made us feel like we were a part of the performance. The main thing for me was that they looked like they were having fun; you could tell that they were comfortable with each other and felt the liberty to truly play with one another.

            If this is the level of performance coming from Real Canaan Theatre with their first production ever, I cannot wait to see what’s in store from them next! Check out this thought-provoking, riveting performance happening at the Red Sandcastle Theatre until September 25th. For more information and tickets, visit: Real Canaan Theatre presents THE MERCHANT OF VENICE – Sep 8 – 25, 2022 (ticketscene.ca)


Poster Design by Sam Waters sam-waters.com

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