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The Independent Recommends: The Five Best Plays

The Merchant of Venice (Cottesloe, National Theatre, London)

With the magnificent Henry Goodman as Shylock, Trevor Nunn's 1920s-style production finds a rich complexity in a play too often simplified on the stage. Truly great directing. In rep to 11 Sept

The Real Thing (Donmar Warehouse, London)

Tom Stoppard's witty, thoughtful disquisition on love looks even better now than in 1982, helped by an attractive performance from Stephen Dillane. To 7 Aug

The Family Reunion (Swan Theatre, Stratford)

A masterclass in electrically incisive verse-speaking from Greg Hicks, who gives utter credibility to the haunted Harry in Adrian Noble's skilful revival of this rarely performed TS Eliot play. In rep to 7 Oct

House and Garden (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough)

Two enjoyably linked plays by Alan Ayckbourn (right). The twist is that they are performed simultaneously in two adjacent auditoria, with the same nippy cast racing back and forth. To 10 Jul

Jumpers (Birmingham Rep Theatre)

Tom Stoppard's agile feat of mental gymnastics bounces back in this enterprising revival. To 17 Jul