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Al Pacino-led 'The Merchant of Venice' will move to Broadway in October

July 26, 2010 |  2:29 pm

PacinoShylockJoanMarcusAP Al Pacino's turn as Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" will move to Broadway this fall, the Public Theater announced Monday, following a sold-out run in New York's Central Park that ends Aug. 1.

The show is scheduled for a limited run of 78 performances, from Oct. 19 to Jan. 9. Shakespearean veteran Daniel Sullivan will direct.

It will mark Pacino's first Broadway role since 2003, when he played King Herod in a much-derided revival of Oscar Wilde's "Salome." Pacino's previous Shakespearean turn on Broadway was a celebrated 1979 performance in the title role of "Richard III."

Times critic Charles McNulty credited Pacino with "a return to form" as Shylock, the Jewish money lender who Shakespeare famously humanized beyond the Jew-hating conventions of an England where it was illegal to practice the faith from 1290 to 1656 -- but who ultimately suffers utter humiliation and dispossession in keeping with what the Bard's original public no doubt wanted and expected.

"There may be no justification for the figure of Shylock today, but Pacino, in a production that serves him adequately well, does justice to the complicated conundrum of a character whose hold on us defies our better judgment," McNulty wrote. "What's fascinating is the way [Shakespeare's] ever-perceptive artistry subverts tradition, bestowing a soul to a stereotype while maintaining its conventional outline."

"Merchant" has an interesting production history on Broadway. It was staged 43 times from 1899 through 1931, according to the Internet Broadway Database, tying "Hamlet" as that era's most frequently-mounted  Shakespearean play on the Great White Way.

But it disappeared from the Broadway boards from 1932, the year the Nazi party ascended to power in the Reichstag, Germany's parliament, until 1947, two years after the Allied victory in World War II finally ended Adolf Hitler's assiduous and efficient effort to exterminate world Jewry.

As Shakespeare goes on Broadway, "Merchant" remains popular. The Pacino-led revival will be the first since 1989, when Dustin Hoffman played Shylock, but the fifth since World War II. That ties it with "Romeo and Juliet," "As You Like It" and "King Lear" as Broadway's third most-produced Shakespeare play since 1945, trailing only "Hamlet" (13 productions) and "Macbeth" (9). "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Twelfth Night" have had four revivals each during that time.

-- Mike Boehm

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Photo: Al Pacino, right, as Shylock in `The Merchant of Venice,' with Lily Rabe and Byron Jennings. Credit: Joan Marcus/Associated Press.