Early on, this Shylock is a civil businessman who endures much and seems genuinely devoted to his religion and, albeit tyrannically, to his daughter. Famously inquiring, "Hath not a Jew eyes?", he's a hurt and exasperated man hoping to convince. But he arrives in the courtroom, exacting if perverse, with not only a knife and a scale but also a little packet of meat against which to balance his anticipated fillet of Antonio. Listening with fierce eyes and outward politesse to Portia's plea for mercy, he sits smug and impassive, his legs crossed. But when robbed not only of his revenge but also of his Jewish identity, Abraham's Shylock sinks to the floor as if shot and can barely stagger from the stage, his sobs and moans heartrending.

Then it's back to Belmont, into which disillusionment with vows more flexible than Shylock's is leaking. Lorenzo and Jessica are at odds, and it's clear that she profoundly regrets her betrayal of her father. Portia's maid, Nerissa (smartly played by Christen Simon Marabate), must face the fact that, in marrying Bassanio's sidekick, Gratiano, she has tied herself to a crass, overenthusiastic puppy. Moreover, there is a bitter edge to Portia's anger at Bassanio. So much for the happily-ever-after that's supposed to separate comedy from tragedy.

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