The Merchant of Venice The most literate of the offerings on local stages this summer also ranks among the finest of Shakespeare’s plays. It’s the venerable chestnut about the scheming, manipulative Jewish merchant scorned and verbally abused by his fellow Venetians. The subject of endless analysis over the years centering on whether Shakespeare wrote a cruelly bigoted play or a noble defense of human dignity, it’s often overlooked that the tragic story of Shylock is built within a structure of a good, old-fashioned romantic comedy. Shakespeare Orange County, (714) 744-7016; www.shakespeareoc.org. Aug. 6-22.
Courtesy Shakespeare Orange County
A pound of flesh . . . with some fava beans and a nice chianti?
Women Behind Bars What is there not to like in Tom Eyen’s riff on 1950s sexploitation movies? There’s sadism, masochism, lesbianism, chain-smoking and gum-snapping. No wonder this story of a naive young woman framed for robbery and twisted into a bitter drug dealer after eight brutal years of incarceration has been translated into Hebrew. Some things sell in any language! STAGEStheatre, (714) 525-4484; www.stagesoc.org. Aug. 21-Sept. 20.