(Posted 4:30 p.m., Nov. 28)
production a great twist on Shakespeare classic
By Fred Sherwin
is a different kind of cat. The former artistic director of the Orléans
Young Players Theatre School has always danced to a different drummer.
Case in point,
when he appeared in a production of the Shakespearean classic "The
Merchant of Venice", he was intrigued by a line in the play that suggest
Shylock's daughter Jessica trades a ring she;'s stolen from her father for
I would hazard
to guess that most people who have read "A Merchant of Venice"
would be hard-pressed to remember that Jessica bought a monkey with a ring,
let alone that Shylock had a daughter named Jessica.
But Hersh has
taken that innocuous reference and turned it into a funny and entertaining
play called "Jessica's Monkey" which is being presented this weekend
by the ENCORE! Theatre Company in the Black Box Theatre at the Shenkman
the play which features the talents of James MacDougall, who was nothing
short of brilliant in last year's ENCORE! Theatre production of "The
Lost One", and Kat Palmer who appears in her first ENCORE! Theatre
production as Jessica.
ENCORE Theatre production of 'Jessica's Monkey' stars Iannick Cyr-Michaud
as Mordecai, Kat Palmer as Jessica and James MacDougall as Lorenzo.. Fred
Jessica's goofball husband Lorenzo, complete with a cheesy Italian accent.
The two meet by chance in the streets of Venice and their hormones immediately
go into hyper drive. The fact that Jessica is Jewish and Lorenzo is Catholic
does not phase the lovers one bit.
The two decide
to elope and get married, but not before Jessica agrees to convert to Christianity
and grab a bag full of her father's money. While all this is happening,
Shylock is caught up in the drama that form's the plot line of "The
Merchant of Venice".
spend their wedding night getting blotto in a Genoa bar where they pass
out after blowing all their money. The next morning a hungover Jessica decides
to buy a money from a roving salesman who enters the bar and so begins the
story of Jessica's monkey.
learns that the couple's marriage and his daughter's conversion to Christianity,
but he is too caught up in his vendetta against Antonio to get overly worked
up about it.
argues his case for a pound of Antonio's flesh in front of a magistrate,
but he is outwitted by Portia and is ordered to hand over half his fortune
to Lorenzo and Jessica and bequeath the rest of his estate to them in his
will. That's where the parallels to "The Merchant of Venice" ends.
Monkey" picks the story up after the trial. Jessica and Lorenzo continue
to live with Lorenzo's mother and the monkey, who Jessica names Mordecai.
Before long they begin to run low on money again, largely because Lorenzo
refuses to work for a living. But instead of getting a job, he decides to
kill Shylock so they'll inherit his estate.
After they take
possession of Shylock's house, Jessica buys a second money and names him
Abraham. When they start to run low on money again she shames Lorenzo into
finally getting a job, but he has to go abroad for months at a time. During
his extended trips abroad, Jessica buys a third and fourth monkey and begins
to question her own identity.
After three years
have passed, Jessica confronts Lorenzo who admits that he has run through
the money he borrowed from Antonio and Bassanio to start his business and
they want it back. Jessica has little sympathy for her freeloading husband
and instead plans a take the monkeys on a trip to Africa.
cash, Lorenzo sells the monkeys to a merchant seaman hoping he can reignite
their relationship without the primates around. When Jessica finds out what
Lorenzo has done she leaves him.
to death on a piece of sausage, The monkeys apparently overpower the crew
on their ship and return to Venice with a treasure chest full of rings.
The play is at
times absurd, ridiculous and completely nonsensical, but it is 100 per cent
entertaining. Besides the terrific work of MacDougall and Palmer, ENCORE!
newcomers Frédérique and Iannick Cyr Michaud stood out in their roles as
Shylock and Mordecai.
of Jessica's monkey was pure genius, especially the part where he claps
his feet together while doing handstands. It was an incredibly physical
role and Cyr-Michaud played it to the hilt. Former SNL cast member Chris
Kattan of Mr. Peepers fame would be proud.
Ian Martin, Brandon Miller, Keira Polak and Victoria Sawyer rounded out
the talented cast who obviously benefitted under Hersh's direction and guidance.
This is the first
play I've reviewed in the Black Box Theatre, and I most say that I was pretty
impressed. The room is perfect for medium-size amateur theatre productions
like "Jessica's Monkey".
The Orléans Young
Players Theatre School will be presenting their holiday season offering
"An OYP Christmas Carol" in the Black Box Theatre on Dec. 4, 5
and 6. For showtimes and ticket prices visit www.oyplayers.on.ca.
was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local
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