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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S THE MERCHANT OF VENICE OPENS SATURDAY

 
The Gazebo Players sixteenth annual free Shakespeare in the Park production, The Merchant of Venice this Saturday.


All performances of The Merchant of Venice start at 5 PM and are free to the public. 

Performances at Rocky Woods Reservation in Medfield will take place on July 22nd and 23rd. 
Performances at Powisset Farm in Dover will take place on July 29th and 30th. 
Performances in Walpole will take place on August 5th and 6th, either at the Music Court in Bird Park or, in case of rain, at the Walpole Footlighters (2 Scout Road). 


Audiences are encouraged to bring picnics, sunscreen, and bug spray to outdoor performances. Beverages and light refreshments may be available for purchase at some venues.

The Merchant of Venice revolves around Antonio (Cynthia Small of Medfield), a successful Venetian merchant, and his best friend Bassanio (Marlee Waleik of Natick), a young gentleman who has lost all his wealth through irresponsibility and frequently borrows from Antonio. Gratiano (Benjamin Medeiros of Jamaica Plain), Lorenzo (Alessandra Horton of Holliston), Salanio (Finley Smith of Newton), and Salarino (Mei-Lin Po of Framingham) are also friends of Bassanio and Antonio, all living in Venice as the play begins. Bassanio has come up with a scheme to pay back Antonio at last, but to do it he’ll need one final loan. He’s fallen in love with beautiful heiress Portia (Ellen Pariser of Sharon) and, if he can successfully woo and marry her, his money problems will be solved. However, he can’t go courting with empty pockets. Antonio’s wealth is currently all tied up in his merchant ships out at sea, so he arranges for Bassanio to borrow the money from Shylock (Steve Small of Medfield), a rich Jewish moneylender who hates Antonio for his anti-Semitism. With Antonio as the guarantor who will repay the money once his ships come in, Shylock agrees, on one condition: if Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock can take a pound of his flesh. Believing he’s in no danger of defaulting, Antonio agrees despite Bassanio’s worries, and the loan is granted.

At Shylock’s home in Venice’s Jewish ghetto, all is not well as his daughter Jessica (Juliana Small of Medfield) secretly plots to elope with the Christian Lorenzo and his servant Launcelot (Suzanne Greenwald of Westwood) decides to leave his service to go work for Bassanio, as he’s very anti-Semitic and can’t stand working for a Jew. Launcelot’s father, Old Gobbo (Lana Orlova of Medway), helps him gain Bassanio as an employer. Soon after, Bassanio and Gratiano, who has fallen for Portia’s lady-in-waiting Nerissa (Marielle Boudreau of Jamaica Plain), set off from Venice to Belmont to woo the two ladies. Meanwhile, at Portia’s estate in Belmont, Portia and Nerissa are visited by arrogant suitors like the Prince of Morocco (Barbara Schapiro of Sharon) and yearn to see again those two handsome gentlemen from Venice. When Venetian visitors are announced, they can’t believe their ears! Can it truly be Bassanio and Gratiano? But will Bassanio succeed in unlocking the riddle left by Portia’s late father in order to marry her? And what of the fate of Antonio, whose ships are rumored to be lost at sea? To find out how the story ends, come join the Gazebo Players for one of the Bard’s best-known comedies, featuring Shakespeare’s famous “Quality of Mercy” speech.

Director Debbi Finkelstein of Natick has chosen to set the play in a more traditional time period but will focus on themes that are current today: friendship, prejudice, and feminism. Ms. Finkelstein says, “As with so many of Shakespeare's plays, The Merchant of Venice is still relevant today. I hope to entertain, yet still make audiences think.