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Al Pacino returns to Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice'

December 7, 2009 | 11:32 am

Pacino Michael Corleone, Frank Serpico, Tony Montana ... Shylock?

Al Pacino's most memorable characters have been men caught up in violent underworlds where crime rules unfettered and morality is a relativist battlefield.

On stage, however, Pacino has played a much wider range of characters when compared with those that Hollywood has assigned to him. In L.A., he essayed the role of King Herod in Oscar Wilde's "Salome" in 2006. Today comes word that his latest theatrical role will be Shylock in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," which will be produced this summer in New York's Central Park.

"Merchant" will run Jun. 9 to Aug. 1 and will be directed by Daniel Sullivan, according to the Public Theater, which is producing. The play will also star Jesse L. Martin, Lily Rabe, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Max Wright.

This will be at least the second time that Pacino has performed "Merchant." In 2004, he played Shylock in a film adaptation of the play that co-starred Jeremy Irons and was directed by Michael Radford.

The Public Theater's production will run in repertory with Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale," which will share many of the same cast members as "Merchant," but not Pacino. 

Pacino's fascination with Shakespeare was documented in his 1996 film, "Looking for Richard," a quasi-documentary in which the actor played the title role of "Richard III."

The actor has won two Tony Awards for his work on the Broadway productions of David Rabe's "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel" in 1977 and Don Petersen's "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?" in 1969.

In a Times review of the 2004 "Merchant" film, Pacino was praised for his "mesmerizing, sympathetic yet warts-and-all characterization" of Shylock.

-- David Ng

Photo: Al Pacino. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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