The Merchant of Venice by the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble was performed on Oct. 3 through Oct. 20. While watching the show, I observed the different uses of costume design, lighting techniques, sound usages, character imitation, and scenery that developed the world of the play. While most of the costume selections picked by each character seemed to have fit well, other costumes, such as the lead character Portia’s, did not.
In the play, Cassandra Pisieczko took the role as Portia, a woman living in a high-class society of Venice, Italy. Her costume created a negative vibe within the audience because it entailed wearing a prom dress and sunglasses for the majority of the show. I don’t believe this costume related to the overall theme of the play. Some actors were dressed as if they lived in modern Venice and other characters, such as the first two contestants for Portia, were dressed like they lived in old Venice. It was confusing and hard to decipher what time in history the play was actually taking place. The suits worn by men with wealth were costumes that remained constant throughout the play.
The stage lighting of the play did not seem to have the right effect on its audience throughout the play either. Since the lights stayed on during the performance, the audience took this as time to get up and move rather than sit still. At the scene where Portia and her woman caretaker, Narissa, returned to the h3ouse after they pretended to be lawyers, all the lights dimmed down to make the scene look like it was nighttime. At this time, I thought the actors and lighting technique did a great job in showing what they wanted the audience to see, which was the time of day.
The music during the play was a violin played by a woman in the chorus. At precise times she would play a few notes indicating some action was about to happen. I liked this aspect of the play because it added a sense of suspense and excitement when she would play her instrument. I especially liked when she played her violin after all of the contestants left because Portia would tell her to stop her music.
The character imitation that occurred during the play was phenomenal. All of the actors were very well rehearsed and on point when they needed to show multiple emotions. Some actors carried out double roles, which made it harder to persuade the audience that each character was different; I think that they did a great job in doing so. Tom Byrn, played the role of the Jew named Shylock and revealed his amazing acting skills. At one of the end scenes at the court hearing, he had so much passion for his role that he actually made the audience believe that he was in pain. His acting created a sense of reality in the play, showing his ability to perform.
I absolutely loved the scenery in the play. The background with the stairs coming down from the balcony was a great way to show the audience spacing of the play. I liked that the balcony had three different doors that were used by three different characters throughout the play. The design of the set was also very well done for The Merchant of Venice because it allowed the space underneath the balcony to represent outside on a street, a court room, and outside of Jessica’s home. I believe the spacing was used well. Even though the location designed for the set was clearly portrayed, the time period for the play was not.
One thing I didn’t like about the play that ruined the show for me was the use of some audience members on stage along with the actors. I didn’t like this because it was very distracting for the viewer. Some audience members on stage would fiddle with the pamphlet or talk during the play making the world of the play not real. It was hard to focus on the storyline when the non-actors on stage were not dressed appropriately or talking during some acts. I did however, like when the actors would come from behind the audience seated in the rows.
Overall, the play was decent and not very entertaining. I believe that some of the ideas used to enhance the plays performance were not beneficial in the production. For example, the use of audience members on stage created more of a distraction instead of a focal point for the audience. The plot was greatly portrayed by the actors; therefore, besides the minor details in costume, the play was well presented.