In this intelligent, provocative, powerful one-man show, Toronto-based John D. Huston does masterful work as Jon Davies, a Jewish actor playing the moneylender Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The contentious production has just been shut down over accusations of anti-Semitism, and Davies holds a “talkback session” with the audience to defend his work.
With a script by Mark Leiren-Young, the 90-minute work is packed with ideas about history, identity, censorship and the nature of art. As Davies speaks about the ways Shylock has been interpreted — as comic buffoon, as pitiable victim, as bloodthirsty villain — he marshals difficult intellectual arguments, while struggling emotionally with his own moments of uncertainty.
Raising some controversial points, the play could probably use its own talkback session. (Hey, maybe objecting to white guys playing Othello isn’t just prissy political correctness!) But if this work sometimes feels profoundly uncomfortable, that, surely, is the point.
— Alison Gillmor