2006 Outstanding actor in a play, smaller theaters: Steve Hendrickson’s Shylock mixed villainy and sympathy in "The Merchant of Venice"
-Graydon Royce / Star Tribune
Directed by Michelle Hensley
￼Michelle Hensley, Ten Thousand Things' artistic director, made many wise choices with this production -- so clear and easy to understand, airy and transparent in the playing. Her smartest decision, though, was when she put the money lender Shylock into the hands of Steve Hendrickson, an actor eager to explore the frightening contradictions of human nature. Director and actor have conceived of a Shylock deeply wounded by centuries of contumely, turned bitter and vengeful by his extraordinary awareness of the Jew's place in medieval Venice. Hendrickson takes this cultural backdrop and turns it into a terribly personal portrait, expressing in each spiteful comment and slumped gesture his own wounds. His hurt is deep and he demands our sympathy, yet he would spit it back if it were offered. This is the delicacy of Hendrickson's portrayal, that we are left puzzling over whether he is villain or victim, for in totality he is both.
The show is Shylock's to carry, and Steve Hendrickson does not disappoint. Before he utters a word, his carriage conveys weariness and wariness. His face set in defiance and his eyes are always sharp and bright, never more so than when he sees an opportunity — be it for financial gain or vengeance. He clips and picks at his lines with a clean and fine-edged precision.
As with all juicy Shakespearean roles, there are plenty of opportunities for scenery chewing, but Hendrickson resists most of these, opting for subtle vibration instead of roaring thunder. His measured and mature performance doesn't give us the definitive word on Shylock, but it's probably not meant to. It seems, rather, to fit into the intentionally ambiguous energy of the piece.
Reading Rohan Preston's April 15 article made me remember last year's production of "A Merchant of Venice" by Ten Thousand Thing Theater Company.
During the trial scene when Shylock is told that converting to Christianity is part of his sentence for his request for his alleged crime, there were audible gasps from the audience. I looked around to see many shocked faces and people exchanging uncomfortable glances. The grief-stricken Shylock, beautifully portrayed by actor Steve Hendrickson, accepts this sentence with utter despair. The silence in the room was terrible. And wonderful.
-Linda Sue Anderson / Star-Tribune Op-Ed
Nov 11, 2006
There was a time when societal attitudes made it easy to consider Shylock as a simple villain. Today, the portrayal of Shakespeare's main character in "The Merchant of Venice" demands far greater investigation. You can watch no finer example of an actor's work than Steve Hendrickson's portrait in Ten Thousand Things' staging. Hendrickson's Shylock clearly bears centuries of wounds in his soul, and he demands our sympathy. Yet, never does this "victim" lose his villainous ardor. It is nothing less than an awesome performance in a terrific production.