Nov. 2nd, 2016

cyphomandra: (balcony)
Performed on alternating nights, both one-man plays; definitely a triumph of stamina (for the actor – they were both about 100 minutes long). I liked them both but for me Shylock had the edge.

Shylock is, obviously, about the character in the Merchant of Venice, but the character Masterson plays is Tubal (or the actor playing Tubal), a wealthy merchant friend of Shylock’s and the only other Jewish character in Shakespeare’s plays, with a whole 8 lines. The piece – set against a backdrop of fraying banners with the word “Jew” written on them in various languages – is a history and a performance of The Merchant of Venice; we skip through the play from one scene with Shylock (and Tubal) to another, and digress frequently. It covers Jews in fiction and history from Pontius Pilate to the 1190 Jewish Massacre in York, to the Venetian ghettos and the shadow it casts forward into the Holocaust. In addition, we touch on Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, the Italian source for the Merchant, the various actors who played Shylock and how they evolved the part, and up to tday. There are a lot of great moments and when we end up at the court scene with Shylock’s greatest speech and his total defeat it’s magnificent, and very disturbing. I would definitely see this again.

Under Milk Wood – I saw this years back at the Basement staged as a 1950s radio play, the actors stepping up to the mikes in turn, a Foley artist off to the side; an excellent production. This one-man version is enthusiastic, polished (I think he’s done over 2000 performances) and still affecting, but I am not sure making it a one-man performance improves it as a piece, even while it does showcase Masterson’s impressive acting abilities. He also lost me a bit with some of the female characters, especially the younger girls (all coy falsetto), but he does Polly Garter, looked down on by the town for her multiple children by multiple men, very well – she and Captain Cat (signified by him putting on a pair of sunglasses) get the best bits, really.

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cyphomandra

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