I got to take in the much-touted Merchant of Venice at the Broadhurst just off Time Square last night and I have almost nothing to add to the critical consensus: it is just as good as everybody says it is. 's cheerful, grittyMore: Al Pacino is indeed wonderful in the lead but--this is the remarkable part--he does not run away with the show. Daniel Sullivan has put together a genuinely ensemble cast, except that if there is anyone who runs away with it, it's Lily Rabe as Portia. This is surely the best Portia I've ever seen. It's a part that generally goes okay--another of Shakespeare's cheerful, gritty, warm-hearted cross-dressers. But Rabe massages it into something far more complex and subtle than anything I (at least) ever suspected.
Another way to tell that this is a success for a director, not the star: I'd seen an earlier Pacino Merchant on DVD. It was a polished performance all around, but it offered none of the bite, power and drive of Sullivan's presentation here last night. He's apparently affixing his personal brand (that word again) to New York Shakespeare and I can only regret I haven't seen any more of it, perhaps particularly his Twelfth Night last year.