Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of The Amen Corner
Godwin (who cites recent scholarship in his citing of Thomas Middleton as Shakespeare's co-author) has built the production around Kathryn Hunter in the title role, traditionally played by a man. She's hypnotic to watch as her character discovers that wealth can't buy true friendship, and self-knowledge takes hard work.
The arc of the play is fairly simple: When Timon is rich and generous, hosting lavish parties and bestowing elegant gifts, her friends love her. When her money runs out and she asks those same people for help, believing "I am wealthy in my friends," they refuse her. The proud woman who first appears in a burnished gold gown eventually is humbled, wearing a plain white tunic as she searches for sustenance in the wilderness outside Athens.
Godwin's luxurious staging benefits from Soutra Gilmour's scenic and costume designs, both of which center around emblematic hues: gold, black, and white, with shocking accents of blood red and the brown color of dirt. At the beginning of the play, Timon entertains her guests with golden plates and goblets; the only one who doesn't wear the color is the cynical philosopher Apemantus (Arnie Burton) in his T-shirt, cardigan, and black jeans. Everything changes in the second act, when the disillusioned Timon is reduced to digging for roots to eat and encounters a ragged band of dispossessed Athenians led by Alcibiades (Elia Monte-Brown).
Burton, whose delivery suggests a 21st-century comedian or political pundit, makes a strong impression, while John Rothman offers quiet grace as Timon's faithful steward. Adding to the heightened atmosphere are Donald Holder's penetrating lighting design, Christopher Shutt's sound design, and the presence of three musicians performing Michael Bruce's score, joined by singer Kristen Misthopoulos.
Timon of Athens runs through March 22, 2020, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh, 450 Seventh St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.
By William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton, edited by Emily Burns and Simon Godwin. Directed by Simon Godwin. A co-production with Theatre for a New Audience, in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company