Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sparkling Venice: "Like a Wild Animal"

Lily Rabe and David Harbour in Merchant.

The first time I saw David Harbour on stage I couldn't help noticing that he's incredibly beautiful. It didn't take long to realize he's also very talented and smart (a Dartmouth grad, to boot). The production of Virginia Woolf he did with Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner on Broadway remains vividly etched in my mind even though I saw it more than five years ago, as does that episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent in which he played a religious nut who kills his family.

So I was happy to see that he was one of the new cast members joining the Broadway transfer of The Merchant of Venice, replacing Hamish Linklater as Bassanio, and was glad to have the chance to talk to him about his role. My favorite quote of his is about working with Al Pacino: "He is like a wild animal, sort of like a dog that you don't actually know how to train. But I love that because that's when something inspired actually happens."

The show's even stronger than it was in Central Park this summer (or perhaps I was just better able to focus since I wasn't melting in 95 percent humidity). Either way I found Harbour's performance quite thrilling. In Bassanio's first scene with Antonio, the one where Bassanio convinces him to borrow money for him, Harbour touches the back of Byron Jennings' neck in a way that's both intimate and manipulative, and it demonstrates the power Bassanio has over his friend. A really interesting choice.