By William Shakespeare
Directed by Barbara Gaines
At Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Stunning staging and strong performances make Timon of Athens a winner
The trouble pay, Timon of Athens (1608), is now considered possibly co-authored with Thomas Middleton, has a fresh, zesty treatment by director Barbara Gaines at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Led by famed British classical actor, Ian McDiarmid in the lead role, Timon is a fast-paced spectacle (terrific set design by Kevin Depinet) with outstanding lighting by Robert Wierzel featuring vivid video graphics by Mike Tuta. The production features a fine assortment of Chicago classical actors including Sean Fortunate (Flavius), William Dick (Jeweller), Timothy Edward Kane (Artist), Kevin Gudahl (Writer/Judge), David Lively (Sempronius) and James Newcomb as the cynical philosopher Apemantus.
Timon of Athens is cautionary morality tale about the seductive power of wealth set in the high-risk modern world of futures trading. Timon is an extremely wealthy man who is generous to all as he values friendship by sharing his wealth with all who enter his sphere. We witness Timon’s generosity at a banquet feast that finds the titan celebrating life by sharing his money with artist, poets, a servant, and a senator, among others. Timon is a fine fellow who apparently is beloved by all.
But when the financial tides of monetary funds dries up, Timon, despite his warnings from Flavius, tries to collect money owed to him and he seeks loans from those who benefited from his benevolence. But his former friends become ruthless creditors leading to Timon’s financial ruin.No one will give Timon a cent.
This troubled play wonders in act two as we find a delusional Timon pondering his plight on a sandy beach where he discovers gold bars hidden in the sand. He shares them with Alcibiades (nice work by Danforth Comins), the artist and the writer telling them to use them wisely. Timon also debates life with Apemantus who scorns the power of gold as does Timon.
When Flavius arrives to aid his former boss, Timon shows him the large stash of gold bars. Flavius, Timon realizes, is his only true friend.
This production features a vividly physical and verbally challenging work from Ian McDiarmid. He has many fine moments but I was constantly troubled by his much too quick speech patterns – which often lead to incoherent responses or retorts. If only McDiarmid would slow down a beat or two, we’d appreciate his performance more once we understood all his his dialogue. But there is much to admire in his work and his total performance was quite astounding. His command of the stage has the presence of a giant.
It is a joy to see a seldom produced Shakespeare work, such as Timon of Athens, so lively staged and so expertly acted. At only 2 hours, 15 minutes including intermission, it is s fine play to introduce folks to the wonders of The Barbs work.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: May 2, 22012
For more info checkout the Timon of Athens page at theatreinchicago.com
At Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL, call 312-595-5600, www.chicagoshakes.com, tickets $44 – $75, Tuesdays thru Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, Wednesday matinees at 1 pm, through June 10, 22012