In a heated conversation during the first act of “District Merchants,” a white immigrant tells a black man that he understands the other’s plight: “I know what is to be poor, hated and looked down on just because you’re, you know, you.”
The African-American points out that he lives with that stigma every day. White people see the word “thief” written on his face, he says. The immigrant replies: “Not everyone sees that!”
A version of this conversation could have been had in 16th-century Venice or post-Civil War Washington, D.C. — or a Twitter thread in 2019.
That’s part of the point of “District Merchants,” Aaron Posner’s 2016 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” A production by New Jewish Theatre begins performances Thursday.