The Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater will host five special performances of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice from July 27 through 30 in Washington, D.C. The production, directed by Jonathan Munby, stars Jonathan Pryce CBE (Wolf Hall, Game of Thrones) as moneylender Shylock. I reached out to the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts to learn more about this leg of the Globe Theatre on Tour.
“The range and depth to which Shakespeare’s works have influenced storytelling throughout the ages is what makes his original works so timeless,” said Robert Van Leer, Senior Vice President of Artistic Planning. “His prose reflects themes and messages that are still relevant to our society today, such as the strong familial bond forged between father and daughter at the very heart of The Merchant of Venice.”
Mr. Van Leer added, “To bring this critically acclaimed production of one of his most powerful works to life on the Kennedy Center stage, in partnership with Shakespeare’s Globe, in London, feels like such a fitting tribute the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and his lasting literary legacy.”
In The Merchant of Venice, wealthy merchant Antonio (Dominic Mafham) takes out a loan from Shylock with a peculiar condition: If he fails to repay the money, he’ll have to pay with a literal pound of his flesh. When Antonio’s venture is unsuccessful, Shylock arrives to claim his “bond.” The cast also features Stefan Adegbola (Lancelot), Christopher Logan (Arragon/Stephano), Brian Martin (Salarino), Rachel Pickup (Portia), and Phoebe Pryce (Jessica).
The production came to New York City last week in its U.S. debut and garnered positive reviews there. Jonathan Pryce, a two-time recipient of both the Tony and Olivier Awards, is likely to amaze D.C. audiences with his portrayal of the complex antagonist Shylock this week. Mr. Van Leer discussed the father-daughter relationship as an important theme of the play, yet there is another intriguing aspect to note. Phoebe Pryce, Jonathan Pryce’s real-life daughter, plays the role of Jessica, Shylock’s daughter.
Following the limited run in D.C., the Globe Theatre on Tour continues to Chicago in August, China in September, and back to Shakespeare’s Globe in October. After London in October, the international tour will end fittingly in Venice, Italy.