For a few days it seemed that nature was intent to dissuade me from attending the Actors' Theatre of Columbus' outdoor production of The Merchant of Venice.
On the first weekend, my theater plans were intercepted by hurricane-strength winds, -- the damage of which is still visible in the several downed trees that dot Schiller Park-- and then temperatures of over 100 degrees forced the cancellation of the following Saturday's show. So it was that I made the trip to the German Village's Schiller Park (the second oldest in the city) on a Sunday evening underneath an ominous looking gray sky.
As a few raindrops began to fall, cast members reassured the small audience that they had a Plan B: an indoor hall adjacent to the outdoor stage. Fortunately, however, the sky cleared and remained so for the two-hour production.
The Actors' Theatre is currently in its 31st year of producing classical theater in Schiller Park's outdoor amphitheater. This season began in May with Robin Hood, and is currently in the middle of a month-long production of Shakespeare's tragic comedy, The Merchant of Venice. This late 16th century work centers around Bassanio, who is in love with the wealthy heiress Portia; his friend Antonio, and the moneylender Shylock. Home-grown talent fills the cast, with standout performances from Mahmoud Osman as Bassanio and John S. Kuhn (the theater's artist director) as Shylock.
The Merchant of Venice runs every Thursday through Sunday until July 29th. The third and final production of the Actors' Theatre's summer season will be Carlo Osvaldo Goldoni's screwball comedy The Servant of Two Masters, running from August 2nd to September 2nd.
All shows begin at 8 p.m. but I highly recommend arriving earlier and wandering around the 23.5-acre park and its facilities, which include picnic areas, softball diamonds, a fishing pond and landscaped gardens. A few excellent nearby restaurants include Barcelona, The Explorer's Club and Harvest Pizzeria.