Highly Recommended: Merchant on Venice / by R. Sheth

October 4, 2007
By Kerry Reid

Shishir Kurup doesn't merely update the Elizabethan vernacular (he keeps the iambs) in his bold, smart, sardonic reinvention of one of Shakespeare's most troubling plays. He also skillfully weaves in post-9/11 paranoia about "the other" as well as the prejudices of competing immigrant groups on LA's Venice Boulevard.

Here Sharuk/Shylock (a stunning Anish Jethmalani) is a Muslim mercilessly derided by Hindu Devendra/Antonio and his friends. This minority-on-minority conflict creates layers of cultural dissonance both intriguing (Sharuk's daughter runs off to be a punk singer) and disturbing (Pushpa/Portia sneeringly dismisses a marriage proposal from a darker-skinned fellow Indian). Stuart Carden's spirited world-premiere staging for Silk Road Theatre Project highlights equally the script's sinister undertones and its giddy polyglot mix of traditional and pop-culture references.