As I mentioned here yesterday, I did the F. Murray Abraham marathon yesterday at Theatre for a New Audience at the Duke on 42nd Street, seeing him as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” at 2 and as Barabas in Christopher Marlowe’s “The Jew of Malta” at 8. (That’s Abraham as Shylock, his knife ready to get his pound of flesh, in a photo by Gerry Goodstein, via the AP.)
Read Mike KuchwaraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s AP review “here.”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070209/ENTERTAINMENT/702090324/1186/ENTERTAINMENTFRONT
Seeing two shows in rotating repertory is a wonderful way to see actors at work on their craft.
One of my fondest theater memories is seeing Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” one night and “Ah, Wilderness!” the next. At the intermission for “Ah, Wilderness!” I went across the street and bought a rose for Dewhurst. At the curtain call, I strode to the edge of the stage and lifted the rose up. She caught my eye, saw the rose and she shot a glance to Robards, who winked at her and told her, “Go on.” She took the rose and said “Thank you,” and I said, “No, thank you.” When she took her place in the line again, I saw her say to Robards “How do you like that?”
A great memory.
Yesterday at the matinee, Abraham was a reasonable unreasonable merchant, demanding the pound of flesh he thought his due. Three hours later, the lights came up on Abraham sitting in a bed of gold coins as Barabas, a snarling, conniving devil, bent on destruction.
The production values of the two shows were remarkably different in tenor and tone: “Merchant,” directed by Darko Tresnjak, was cool and crisp Ã¢â‚¬â€ with the stories caskets replaced by Mac laptops and modern dress for all the actors. “Malta,” directed by David Herskovits, was in period dress with moments of slapstick that fell flat, at least last night. It was uneven, to be sure.
The most affecting scenes were between Abraham and Nicole Lowrance, who played his daughter in both plays: Jessica in “Merchant” and Abigail in “Malta.Ã¢â‚¬? She offered tenderness, he offered little in return.
Both plays were disturbing in their portrayals of Jews. The Playbill had a few “Perspectives” pages of anti-Semitic insults, from Mel Gibson to Henry Ford, which were disturbing, too.
For his part, Abraham afforded himself well, playing both with the bearing of one outraged and surrounded by hypocrites. His Shylock, for my money, was deeper and more effective than the snarling Barabas.
The last glimpse of Shylock is of a whimpering, broken man, walking away from the court, having lost his case, half his wealth — and his religion. It is pathetic, to be sure.
The last thing we see of Barabas is his middle finger. Appropriate, to be sure, and Abraham seemed to be having fun with the part, but somehow the cartoonish quality robbed it of depth. Perhaps it was Herskovits’ way of saying such an outlandish treatment of a Jewish character by a playwright can only be presented in two dimensions.
The run of both shows is sold out, but there is an opportunity to catch another marathon: Tom Stoppard’s “The Coast of Utopia” offers nine all-day marathons of his trilogy of Russian pre-revolutionaries Ã¢â‚¬â€ “Voyage,” “Shipwreck” and “Salvage” Ã¢â‚¬â€ at Lincoln Center’s Beaumont Theater.
I’ve seen the first two, see the third in the next couple of weeks, and it’s really good stuff. A lot of words, to be sure, but I didn’t find it hard to follow. It was kind of fun talking to people at intermission, figuring out who was who from the first show to the second.
The marathon dates are Feb. 24, March 3, 10, 24, 31, April 7, 21, 28 and May 5. If you go on those days, you’re in for a lot of theater. Tickets are $300 for the day. (No individual-show tickets on these days) Call: 212-239-6200.