Bare Bones Shakespeare presents Merchant of Venice
Portio, a rich but wheelchair-bound baron, is stuck at home in Belmont waiting for a woman to come along who can solve his mother’s riddle and win his hand in marriage. Bassania has squandered all of her money and decides that marrying Portio is the best way clear her debts. Antonia doesn’t know how to confess her love for Bassania, so when Bassania asks Antonia for a loan so she can go to Belmont, Antonia doesn’t hesitate. She makes a deal with Shylock, a shrewd and bitter Jewish moneylender, to get the money, but at an unexpected cost. If Antonia cannot pay the Jew back in time, Shylock demands a pound of Antonia’s flesh. Will Bassania win Portio’s hand in time to save her friend? And what will Portio do to make sure that his marriage to Bassania is about more than money?
The Merchant of Venice is about prejudice and discrimination in all its forms. Everyone in the play judges someone else on sight, and few learn to act on more than their first impressions. In addition to this play’s famous exploration of antisemitism, it deals with themes of racism, sexism, and homophobia. The production adds in ableism for good measure, and by reversing the genders of all of the characters, they hope to shine light on the assumptions our culture makes about gender and gender roles. The company-directed style allows the actors to choose for themselves how their characters feel about these themes, and how best to bring these themes to light.