'Timon of Athens' is a Stunning Production
Simon Godwin makes his directorial debut at the Shakespeare Theatre with a stunning production of Timon of Athens. Godwin shows himself to be a creative and exciting director with this production. It is visually stunning and keeps you enthralled from beginning to end.
Now there is another reason you are enthralled from beginning to end and that is the incredible Kathryn Hunter in the role of Timon. Kathryn is not new to cross-gender casting as she was the first woman to play King Lear which she did in 1997. Godwin has described her as a ‘force of nature’ and after seeing her in this role you know why. She commands the stage. The only thing I can find small fault with is often when she is not toward the front of the stage you miss some of her words. She is speaking Shakespearian English so fast and there is a kind of rasp to her voice so some of the words are missed which is a shame because when she is stage center you realize you don’t want to miss a moment of her performance. Her physical performance is as captivating as her spoken word.
Timon of Athens is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays and I would suggest you may want to familiarize yourself with it before going. It could heighten your appreciation of the production. Historians have suggested it was co- written with Thomas Middleton. The main plot of Timon is he is a generous benefactor to many who call themselves his friends. Upon losing his money and approaching them for help he is turned away and they are all unmasked as ingrate sycophants who willingly and happily supped at his table and boasted of being his friend when he was rich.
The subplot is made clear in this production when Timon loses his money and ends up supporting a civil insurrection. It is easy to see today’s world in this production. How money plays such an important role in trying to maintain the status quo for the rich and those born to the manor. How corrupt to their core many can be with an utter lack of scruples in their effort to maintain their lifestyles and power. The play forces you to think about the incredible economic inequality in the world today and the dramatic differences of those in the 1% from the rest of the world and the struggle that causes.
Godwin has taken the liberty of not only casting a woman as Timon but also to cast women in the roles of many of the other characters who were written as men. But through all the struggle of this play and the interactions between wealth and poverty the play ends on a high note which leaves you feeling there is some hope left for the world. As Godwin has said “He hopes in this production to activate a wilder satirical energy in the playing of it. There is a great deal of savage humor in the first half of the play which then helps make the tragic turns the play takes in the second act feel shocking yet also appropriate.” You will feel he has succeeded in this effort superbly.
In addition to Kathryn the rest of the cast is all wonderful. Some standouts are Yonatan Gebeyehu as the Poet, Arnie Burton as Apemantus, Zachary Fine as the Painter, and Kristen Misthopoulos as the Greek Singer. But they are all able to command the stage in turn and you will surprised at the staging as they are not always speaking from the stage.
But what adds immeasurably to making this production so riveting are the sets, costumes, lighting and music. Costumes and Sets are by the incredibly talented Soutra Gilmour. The Lighting Designer is Donald Holder, music composer is Michael Bruce and sound design is by Christopher Shutt.
This is a production you should see for many reasons. As I have said it is stunning but it is also a fine celebration of the talent of Simon Godwin the new Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Timon of Athens will be at the Michael R. Klein Theatre, formerly the Lansburgh, through March 22nd.