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2017 News The Merchant Theatre Production
October 24, 2017 : The Merchant


Coming Halloween weekend, the Ohio University Chillicothe theater program will present The Merchant, a physical comedy incorporating important themes of power, human trafficking, and human rights.  The one-act play written by Plautus in what is believed to be 206 BC, introduces the audience to two families, their servants, and a young lady who, just by her presence and under no control of her own, causes breakage in both homes.  Featuring nine OUC students and other cast members from the community, this production deals with serious topics using humor and hilarious scenarios.

In summary, The Merchant is about a young man’s battle with his father to obtain a girl he has purchased to keep as a sex object, and the reactions of their friends, family members, and servants as the two men try to win the girl. The two wealthy families work for and against each other to get what each want out of the situation while their servants, seemingly more intelligent than their masters, watch the ridiculous behavior of their employers all while scheming to escalate the chain of events that occurs.  

According to Assistant Professor and Director of the OUC theater program, Dr. Lance Mekeel, the current English language adaption of this ancient Roman play relies on outdated sexist, classist, and ageist stereotypes along with an overarching theme of human trafficking.  In an effort to address these negative themes, Mekeel has directed this production to focus on open confrontation of those stereotypes. Mekeel stated, “Since I have chosen such a play to be performed here at OUC this fall, I would be doing a disservice to our audience, and not serving our campus’ mission of providing educational and cultural opportunities for our region, if I merely performed the text as is, reaffirming the very stereotypes that are now acknowledged as false.” For this production, the cast, under Mekeel’s direction, has taken their own creative liberties in an attempt to portray the pronounced presence of those in power versus those who are oppressed within the confines of a story originally written to make a statement about older men interfering with young men’s business.  “In our production, we are latching onto the idea of the hidden style of communication that our servant characters engage in within view of the masters, but the masters are too concerned with their own limited worldview to be able to read the signs the servants are using to create chaos in their masters’ lives. By highlighting just how the servants in this world are--and must be, for survival--infinitely savvier at navigating the world than those who hold power over them, we’re opening the possibility for the audience to see the flaws of our own world,” said Mekeel.  

Echoing Mekeel’s thoughts about their take on the play is OUC student Paige Foraker who stated, “The Merchant is a cunning comedy that focuses on important issues of today.  The audience will see a different perspective of the servant-master relationship while being thoroughly entertained by witty commentary, hilarious scenarios, and the physical actions of the actors.”  With this production, Mekeel and the cast hope to open a conversation regarding the necessary rejection of outrageous, obscene, and offensive behaviors from those in power and instead serve justice for violating every human’s right to respect from others.

The Merchant will be performed October 26, 27, and 28 at 8pm in the OUC Auditorium with an additional matinee on October 28 at 2pm.  OUC students are admitted free with a student ID.  Faculty and staff tickets are $3, and community member tickets are $5.