Gary Smith: Stratford's complex Timon gives us something to think about

WhatsOn Jun 10, 2017 by Gary Smith Hamilton Spectator

You might be excused for thinking Shakespeare's 1608 play "Timon of Athens" was a prototype for a world to come. That's probably why directors of this bleak tale of misanthropy set the piece in modern dress.

Certainly, Timon's world of greed and corruption is understandable to us today. When he's broke are we surprised when he is spurned by those he once favoured with largesse? Not a bit.

The setting may be Athens, but the extravagant parties and over-the-top shenanigans here might easily suggest contemporary London, New York or Toronto.

In a world of self-serving phoneys, Timon, with his ever-open wallet and comfy, masculine grin, is either a vision of kindness personified or a hopeless dupe, used by false friends.

The duds these chaps wear may be made for pennies in sweatshops in Vietnam, but never forget they're paid for with big bucks by guys like Timon's wealthy friends. Knocking back martinis, sipping expensive, imported wine, handsome in $25,000 suits, these pompous sharks are opportunists all.

They cosy up to Timon while the honeypot is flowing. But when the ebullient philanthropist's deals go sour, he's thrown to the wolves.

He's a complex character and you don't know whether to hug him or shake him awake. Ignoring the advice of his real friends, he celebrates a world of takers, but when he's betrayed Timon's benign nature turns to rage.

Should we pity his stupidity? After all, isn't he an egotist too, who wanted to be one of the boys? And wasn't his downfall his failure to work the system?

When Timon's world falls apart, he finally learns being fawned over by phoneys is fine when you have money, but poverty makes you an unwanted knocker at their gates.

Stephen Ouimette's production at Stratford wisely deals with the way wealth can be both a protective shield and an exposure to predators.

As a morality tale, and this certainly is one, "Timon of Athens" is hardly one of Shakespeare's popular plays. Festivals like Stratford program it now and then because they're committed to producing the playwright's entire canon.

Even so, it's been 13 years since Ouimette last staged this drama at the Festival.

There are good things to celebrate in his new look at the play.

Actor Joseph Ziegler, in rough voice opening night, gives a reasonably subtle interpretation of Timon in the play's first act, suggesting an affable, if foolish spendthrift, seduced by the trappings of society and an outward show of friendship.

Digging deeply into the play's second, more problematic act, Ziegler's rage is wisely controlled, making it all the more frightening. Finding a thread of sadness here, Ziegler makes his Timon a disappointed man, used by an uncaring world.

Strong performances from Ben Carlson as the philosopher Apemantus, who mocks Timon's stupidity, Michael Spencer-Davis as his loyal steward Flavius, who tries to warn him of the ways of the world, and Mike Nadajewski as a faux artist who lives on the backs of fools, give the play important shading and nuance.

Ouimette directs with a firm hand using the broad space of the Patterson Theatre well. Dana Osborne's spare, but evocative designs suggest a crisp modernity in the first act and a dark womb of despair in the second. Thomas Ryder Payne's frightening sound design and Kimberly Purtell's painterly lighting add immeasurably to the mood.

It's a joy of the Stratford Festival season that every so often, along with "Hamlet" and "Macbeth," they treat us to the likes of a worrisome character like Timon. Every so often we need a someone to shake things up a little.

Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 35 years.

Gary Smith: Stratford's complex Timon gives us something to think about

WhatsOn Jun 10, 2017 by Gary Smith Hamilton Spectator

You might be excused for thinking Shakespeare's 1608 play "Timon of Athens" was a prototype for a world to come. That's probably why directors of this bleak tale of misanthropy set the piece in modern dress.

Certainly, Timon's world of greed and corruption is understandable to us today. When he's broke are we surprised when he is spurned by those he once favoured with largesse? Not a bit.

The setting may be Athens, but the extravagant parties and over-the-top shenanigans here might easily suggest contemporary London, New York or Toronto.

In a world of self-serving phoneys, Timon, with his ever-open wallet and comfy, masculine grin, is either a vision of kindness personified or a hopeless dupe, used by false friends.

The duds these chaps wear may be made for pennies in sweatshops in Vietnam, but never forget they're paid for with big bucks by guys like Timon's wealthy friends. Knocking back martinis, sipping expensive, imported wine, handsome in $25,000 suits, these pompous sharks are opportunists all.

They cosy up to Timon while the honeypot is flowing. But when the ebullient philanthropist's deals go sour, he's thrown to the wolves.

He's a complex character and you don't know whether to hug him or shake him awake. Ignoring the advice of his real friends, he celebrates a world of takers, but when he's betrayed Timon's benign nature turns to rage.

Should we pity his stupidity? After all, isn't he an egotist too, who wanted to be one of the boys? And wasn't his downfall his failure to work the system?

When Timon's world falls apart, he finally learns being fawned over by phoneys is fine when you have money, but poverty makes you an unwanted knocker at their gates.

Stephen Ouimette's production at Stratford wisely deals with the way wealth can be both a protective shield and an exposure to predators.

As a morality tale, and this certainly is one, "Timon of Athens" is hardly one of Shakespeare's popular plays. Festivals like Stratford program it now and then because they're committed to producing the playwright's entire canon.

Even so, it's been 13 years since Ouimette last staged this drama at the Festival.

There are good things to celebrate in his new look at the play.

Actor Joseph Ziegler, in rough voice opening night, gives a reasonably subtle interpretation of Timon in the play's first act, suggesting an affable, if foolish spendthrift, seduced by the trappings of society and an outward show of friendship.

Digging deeply into the play's second, more problematic act, Ziegler's rage is wisely controlled, making it all the more frightening. Finding a thread of sadness here, Ziegler makes his Timon a disappointed man, used by an uncaring world.

Strong performances from Ben Carlson as the philosopher Apemantus, who mocks Timon's stupidity, Michael Spencer-Davis as his loyal steward Flavius, who tries to warn him of the ways of the world, and Mike Nadajewski as a faux artist who lives on the backs of fools, give the play important shading and nuance.

Ouimette directs with a firm hand using the broad space of the Patterson Theatre well. Dana Osborne's spare, but evocative designs suggest a crisp modernity in the first act and a dark womb of despair in the second. Thomas Ryder Payne's frightening sound design and Kimberly Purtell's painterly lighting add immeasurably to the mood.

It's a joy of the Stratford Festival season that every so often, along with "Hamlet" and "Macbeth," they treat us to the likes of a worrisome character like Timon. Every so often we need a someone to shake things up a little.

Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 35 years.

Gary Smith: Stratford's complex Timon gives us something to think about

WhatsOn Jun 10, 2017 by Gary Smith Hamilton Spectator

You might be excused for thinking Shakespeare's 1608 play "Timon of Athens" was a prototype for a world to come. That's probably why directors of this bleak tale of misanthropy set the piece in modern dress.

Certainly, Timon's world of greed and corruption is understandable to us today. When he's broke are we surprised when he is spurned by those he once favoured with largesse? Not a bit.

The setting may be Athens, but the extravagant parties and over-the-top shenanigans here might easily suggest contemporary London, New York or Toronto.

In a world of self-serving phoneys, Timon, with his ever-open wallet and comfy, masculine grin, is either a vision of kindness personified or a hopeless dupe, used by false friends.

The duds these chaps wear may be made for pennies in sweatshops in Vietnam, but never forget they're paid for with big bucks by guys like Timon's wealthy friends. Knocking back martinis, sipping expensive, imported wine, handsome in $25,000 suits, these pompous sharks are opportunists all.

They cosy up to Timon while the honeypot is flowing. But when the ebullient philanthropist's deals go sour, he's thrown to the wolves.

He's a complex character and you don't know whether to hug him or shake him awake. Ignoring the advice of his real friends, he celebrates a world of takers, but when he's betrayed Timon's benign nature turns to rage.

Should we pity his stupidity? After all, isn't he an egotist too, who wanted to be one of the boys? And wasn't his downfall his failure to work the system?

When Timon's world falls apart, he finally learns being fawned over by phoneys is fine when you have money, but poverty makes you an unwanted knocker at their gates.

Stephen Ouimette's production at Stratford wisely deals with the way wealth can be both a protective shield and an exposure to predators.

As a morality tale, and this certainly is one, "Timon of Athens" is hardly one of Shakespeare's popular plays. Festivals like Stratford program it now and then because they're committed to producing the playwright's entire canon.

Even so, it's been 13 years since Ouimette last staged this drama at the Festival.

There are good things to celebrate in his new look at the play.

Actor Joseph Ziegler, in rough voice opening night, gives a reasonably subtle interpretation of Timon in the play's first act, suggesting an affable, if foolish spendthrift, seduced by the trappings of society and an outward show of friendship.

Digging deeply into the play's second, more problematic act, Ziegler's rage is wisely controlled, making it all the more frightening. Finding a thread of sadness here, Ziegler makes his Timon a disappointed man, used by an uncaring world.

Strong performances from Ben Carlson as the philosopher Apemantus, who mocks Timon's stupidity, Michael Spencer-Davis as his loyal steward Flavius, who tries to warn him of the ways of the world, and Mike Nadajewski as a faux artist who lives on the backs of fools, give the play important shading and nuance.

Ouimette directs with a firm hand using the broad space of the Patterson Theatre well. Dana Osborne's spare, but evocative designs suggest a crisp modernity in the first act and a dark womb of despair in the second. Thomas Ryder Payne's frightening sound design and Kimberly Purtell's painterly lighting add immeasurably to the mood.

It's a joy of the Stratford Festival season that every so often, along with "Hamlet" and "Macbeth," they treat us to the likes of a worrisome character like Timon. Every so often we need a someone to shake things up a little.

Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 35 years.