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Abraham Sees Modern Parallel In ‘Merchant Of Venice’

F. Murray Abraham

F. Murray Abraham stars as ‘Shylock’ in ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ now at the Bank of America Theatre. (Credit: AP)

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CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham is on stage in Chicago this week, starring in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.”

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports, Abraham won the Oscar in 1985 for his portrayal of the villain Antonio Salieri in “Amadeus.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports

Now, he plays another menacing character, Shylock, the eventual money lender in “The Merchant of Venice,” one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays.

The new production appears to be set on modern-day Wall Street rather than 14th century Venice. Abraham says as a play about greed, it resonates with today’s audiences.

“Considering the society we’re living in right now, in that situation with the bankers recently – none of whom went to jail – we’re talking about justice,” Abraham said. “There’s a beautiful aisle scene in this play, and it deals with dealing out justice according to the law, and I think it speaks to a lot of people who are upset that no one paid a penalty for bringing this country to its knees.”

With another Shakespeare turn, Abraham has come full-circle. As a teenager in Texas, he was a gang member on a path toward becoming a criminal thug, when a high school English teacher assigned him to read a passage from “Julius Caesar.” From then on, he was hooked.

“It was a teacher who saved my life,” he said. “Now that’s a teacher, now how did she see in me something I didn’t even know was there? What luck. The hand of God.”

Abraham stars in “The Merchant of Venice” through Sunday at the Bank of America Theatre, formerly known as the Shubert. The production is directed by Darko Tresnjak, former artistic director of the renowned Old Globe Shakespeare Festival in San Diego.

The production is on through Sunday, tickets are $25 to $80. For more information, click here.