The ‘Little Things’ actress breaks down ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Shakespeare Theater

Isabel Arraiza starred alongside Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto in ‘The Little Things’. Now she’s starring in “The Merchant…

OMCP’s Jason Fraley premieres ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Shakespeare Theater (Part 1)

Isabel Arraiza starred alongside Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto in ‘The Little Things’. Now she plays in “The merchant of Venice” at the Shakespeare Theater until April 24.

Arraiza told WTOP that the play is “a reminder of why live theater is so important.”

William Shakespeare’s 16th-century story follows Antonio, a Venetian merchant who takes out a large loan from a Jewish loan shark, the enigmatic Shylock, so he can woo the heiress Portia.

“If Antonio doesn’t fulfill the contract in three months, Shylock can have a pound of his flesh,” Arraiza said. And he doesn’t.

The villainous role of Shylock is played by Tony Award-nominated John Douglas Thompson, best known for Broadway’s “Jitney” and HBO’s “Mare of Easttown.”

He has “been hailed by critics as one of the best Shakespearean actors of the 21st century,” Arraiza said. “He’s just an honor and a masterclass, both in his performance and as a leader of the band. He’s one of the most generous people I’ve met in my life. He’s a real joy. “

As for her own role, “Portia is one of those female characters in the Shakespearean canon that’s so witty, so rich, so complicated,” Arraiza said. “This character has about the same number of lines as Hamlet, so it’s one of those Shakespearean leads that everyone wants to play. In this version, we decided to do an exploration of Portia which is quite unconventional.

While Portia is “most often played as this heroic, virtuous, brilliant young woman,” Arraiza said, “in our version, there’s no happy ending. I think it’s a much more compelling way to tell the story. Instead of having this great lady who is a heroine…it’s the coming of age of this woman who realizes that the world can be a very cruel and scary place.

The tragic ending hammers home the show’s social themes.

“We explore anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and misogyny,” Arraiza said. “All of these characters are kind of victims of the system, and because of that, perpetuating the violence. … It’s the explanation of who the system is, who benefits from it, how do we get around the law , how do we find ourselves in this chaos in our real time? I find that very compelling.”

Director Arin Arbus is working with set designer Riccardo Hernandez to add visual weight to the production, which is set in the near future. “It’s happening in 2025, 2027. It’s our world, and at the same time there are very specific rules to this world. … It takes place in this beautiful brutalist architecture, almost this temple-like scene.

Arraiza enjoys honing her acting skills on stage between movie roles.

“Being on stage makes me feel like an artist,” Arraiza said. “It’s not that I don’t like the camera work – I like both – but they’re just very different places and a very different way of sharing a story.”

In 2018, she starred alongside Jason Sudeikis in the thriller “Driven”.

“He’s so kind, so generous,” Arraiza said. “We actually worked on that before ‘Ted Lasso.’ of what I was doing, I didn’t even know what a ‘mark’ was, the sticker they put on the floor…. He was supporting me: ‘Hey, you’re supposed to hit your target.’ »

That same year, she joined Jim Gaffigan in the thriller “American Dreamer”.

“Nobody makes me laugh like Jim does, both when I see his comedy specials but also in real life,” Arraiza said. “What was so fascinating was that he could make jokes all the time and then they would say ‘action,’ and he could turn on this sociopath thing to play this very scary character and be so good at it. …Jim was right there, turn on a penny.

In 2021, she starred in the thriller “The Little Things” with Washington, Malek and Leto.

“It was surreal,” Arraiza said. “It was my first big studio movie. Rami couldn’t have been nicer. We had great chemistry on and off camera, another example of extreme generosity. Made me feel so at home. ease. Denzel has a larger than life presence, another example of a masterclass. … I’ve never met Jared, but he put on an amazing performance. So terrifying.

Next, she’ll join Josh Brolin in the Amazon Prime series “Outer Range,” which premieres April 15.

“Josh is the best,” Arraiza said. “I guess if I had to define it, it’s a western metaphysical thriller starring Josh Brolin, Lili Taylor, Imogen Poots, Noah Reid, Tom Pelphrey, it’s like a phenomenal, star-studded spectacle.”

OMCP’s Jason Fraley premieres ‘The Merchant of Venice’ at the Shakespeare Theater (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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