October 29, 2010
Some stars get their names above the title. Others’ appear in lights on the marquee. Then there’s Al Pacino. A giant photo of his weary-looking face in the new production of The Merchant of Venice towers above West 44th Street, high above signs for Phantom of the Opera and American Idiot. The Public Theater production of Merchant, staged by Daniel Sullivan at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, received glowing reviews last summer, but this simple, unadorned portrait explains why the show is transferring to Broadway at the Broadhurst Theater: star power, pure and simple. And, sure enough, ticket sales have already been brisk.
Down below the portrait, Mr. Pacino, wearing rumpled clothes and a tangled mop of hair, walked out the stage door recently and across the street to Sardi’s, where he set up in his usual corner table and ordered a shrimp cocktail. His deep-set eyes and raspy laugh were familiar, but in some of his flat vowels and musical stammer you could detect his distinctive performance as a vengeful, proud Shylock. Mr. Pacino, who turned 70 this year, talked with Jason Zinoman about his career, his craft and a lifetime of Shakespeare, although he deflected many questions about Shylock, which he said he preferred to avoid looking at from a critical distance.
At several moments, when pressed about what he was thinking, he turned quiet. Then he’d pivot and fly in a new direction: “Marlon Brando said a great thing once,” he said interrupting one such interval. “In movies, when they say, ‘Action,’ you don’t have to do it. I like that.”
Read the review by Ben Brantley (NYT, June 30, 2010)
See a video from the theatrical performance