Wednesday, May 23, 2012

From Wealth to Wilderness

Timon of Athens

by William Shakespeare

I 'll example you with thievery:
The sun's a thief, and with his great attraction
Robs the vast sea; the moon's an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the sun;
The sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves
The moon into salt tears; the earth's a thief,
That feeds and breeds by a composture stolen
From general excrement: each thing's a thief. (4.3)

Timon of Athens was not staged during Shakespeare's life for reasons unknown, but Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production that I attended today was a successful adaptation of the play for modern audiences.  I call it an adaptation only because the director, Barbara Gaines, had stated in an interview that significant portions of the play and some roles were cut in the process of bringing it to the stage.  The play that remained was acted effectively with verve and energy by Ian McDiarmid as the title character and a host of supporting actors that included Kevin Gudahl, Terry Hamilton (an artistic associate from TimeLine Theatre), Sean Fortunato, Danforth Comins, and Timothy Edward Kane (who I saw in the recent production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at CST).
It is an intensely dramatic play although the character development is more abrupt than one might expect with Timon's fall from wealth, when he is surrounded by his supposed friends, to the wilderness where he banishes himself, when he his reality turns to near madness.  Timon's rants in the wilderness seem precursor to Lear which followed soon after it in 1606.  The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare suggests that some of the language of Timon is similar to that used in Lear.  In addition to the energy of the acting in the CST production there was effective use of modern projection techniques and lighting that enhanced the production.  The result was an entertaining afternoon in the in the presence of one of the Bard's less-well-known plays.

No comments: