F. Murray Abraham’s performance as Shylock, praised by New York critics as the greatest in memory, owes much to the fact that the actor is almost invariably taken as Jewish. That pardonable error, he says, is central to his portrayal of the much-vilified Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” which opens April 14 on The Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
Since the Holocaust, "The Merchant of Venice" -- which opens Sunday at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum -- has been Shakespeare's most controversial play. The story of Shylock, the moneylender who demands his "pound of flesh," has been lauded by some as humanistic and condemned by others as anti-Semitic.
The melancholy comedy, written 300 years after the Jews were expelled from England in 1290, is the frequently produced in Israel. It's also been banned from school districts in Michigan and New York and denounced by Los Angeles-area rabbis.