A young Venetian boy named Bassanio (Charlie Gallant), who is largely in debt, has the opportunity to woo a wealthy heiress named Portia (Lindsey Angell). In order to pursue his quest he accepts a large sum of money his merchant friend Antonio (Duncan Fraser) his graciously offered.
Antonio's money, for the moment, is tied up in overseas ventures but he is certain his ships will come in soon, so hastily borrows money from moneylender Shylock (Richard Newman) with the promise of returning the money within three months. There is only one condition: if Antonio cannot pay back the money on time he will owe Shylock a pound of his own flesh.
Bassanio takes the money from Antonio and goes in pursuit of Portia.
Long ago, before he died, Portia's father set a task for potential suitors. The first one who can make sense of the riddles and choose the correct casket wins his daughter's hand, while the others must resign themselves to a lifetime of bachelorhood. The first two men are hysterically unsuccessful while the third, Bassanio, wins the coveted prize.
Bassanio's friend and travel companion Gratiano (Ryan Beil) also finds love in Portia's attendant Nerissa. Both couples marry and each woman gives their husband a ring to mark their love and commitment. Each man swears to never remove the ring on pain of forfeiting their relationship.
Lorenzo, another friend of Bassanio's, arrives with his bride Jessica and their friend Salanio. Jessica happens to be Shylock's only daughter who had run away from home a short while earlier, having stolen money and jewels from her father. Salanio brings news for Bassanio from Antonio, that all his ships have been lost at sea and he is no longer able to repay his dept to Shylock and will now be forced to forfeit a pound of his flesh.
Portia steps in and offers to pay the debt herself which Bassanio, Lorenzo, and Salanio readily agree to. The three venture off to settle the debt and retrieve Antonio.
Meanwhile, Portia and Nerissa have plans of their own: disguise them selves as a young male lawyer and his clerk and try to rescue Antonio.
Will Shylock show mercy and accept the money from a different source? Will she be merciful in her own approach towards him? What will be gained and what will be lost in this battle of wits, morals, will, and choices?
Richard Newman is brilliant as the complex Shylock giving great depth and emotion to the character. Lindsey Angell is gentle yet strong as Portia. And both John Murphy and Luc Roderique are hysterical in their portrayals of the two unsuccessful suitors. Their choreography was stellar and perfectly matched to their eccentric personalities.
There were a few smaller, yet scene stealing moments from Stephana (Lois Anderson), Salarino (Shawn Macdonald) and Salanio (David Marr), which I won't spoil but are definitely worth watching for.
If there was one thing that stood out as a flaw in the show it would have to be the acoustics. It was at times quite difficult to hear the dialogue regardless of where you were sitting. There was also the added complication of the sound being drowned out by the resonating clumps of people walking across the hollow wooden platforms back to their seats mid-performance.
Having said that though, the cast did a fantastic job competing against that and the five helicopters, two ambulance sirens, two ATVs, and the large wing spread eagle that landed, to the gasps of those of us high enough to see it, just behind the stage.
Bard on the Beach runs until Sept 24, 2011. check out Bard on the Beach for tickets and show times.