Every once in a while, someone decides to take a crack at one of William Shakespeare’s most notorious “problem plays,” such as Timon of Athens. Its original format is written with inconsistencies uncharacteristic of The Bard (indeed, some sources question if he even wrote it at all, or possibly wrote in conjunction with someone else, such as Thomas Middleton). With an abnormally unresolved final act, a great deal of creativity and revision is required in order to stage this convoluted tale in some way that speaks to audiences.
Bare Theatre director Dustin Britt has seized this challenge and run with it, taking creative license with the script and casting. Appropriately set against the 1980’s Age of Indulgence, the story follows Timon (played passionately by Kacey Reynolds Schedler), the most generous noble in all of Athens. Timon is surrounded by friends who gleefully accept her lavish gifts, but her fortunes take a predictable plummet when her financier Flavius (played by a versatile Naveed Moeed) announces that Timon’s coffers are empty.
Not surprisingly, all of Timon’s friends are quick to abandon her once the favors stop flowing, sending Timon into a downward spiral that ends with her hiding out in the woods, shunning all of humanity. There are many more twists and tandems to this tale, of course; but you’ll have to experience them yourself to appreciate the nuances.
The huge cast of characters is handled deftly by only 12 actors, with genderblind casting that played into the androgynous 1980’s glam with great effect. Indeed, Timon and her general/lover Alcibiades (a ferocious Arin Dickson) are the only two actors carrying a single role, with the rest of the impressively committed actors double- and triple-cast.
Rebecca Ashley Jones, Nick Iammatteo, and Karen Morgan Williams flowed from one character to another. The devilish trio of Elizabeth Gilbraith, Nicholas Tycho Reed, and Hayden Tyler especially impressed by changing voice, appearance, movement, and bearing with adroit clarity.
Emily Levinstone also delivered a striking transformation from mousy servant Hermes to the stoic and obnoxious Apemantus. Overall, the cast did a fine job of channeling the drug-sex-and-rock-and-roll-fueled 1980’s extravagance into this manic story about the costs of excess. Props also to Heather J. Strickland (dance) and Tara Nicole Williams (fight/intimacy) for their intricate choreographies.
Opening night was staged at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, NC, a fitting location as they do great work to support the LGBTQ+ community in Raleigh. (Please visit their website to learn more; their “global movement of spiritually and sexually diverse people” is truly inspiring.) It must be said that the church sanctuary was almost too open, and the First Act lost some effect without proper wings and such to whisk actors out of sight or really establish playing areas effectively. (One can only be sure that later shows at The Wicked Witch venue would make the experience even more immersive from the get-go.)
However, the space did work well for the dance-club opening scene, which lighting designer Matthew Tucker changed dramatically in Act Two to provide an intimate, dangerous atmosphere that drew audience members in as Timon descends into her own brand of madness. The 1980’s musical play list added an appropriate (although on occasion, somewhat distracting) background to Act 1, and dark intensity to Act Two.
The final scene certainly made a statement, although it was a bit hard for this reviewer to decide what that statement was exactly. See this bold, flamboyant, sassy, and raw passion project to decide for yourself. Timon of Athens plays through Saturday, March 16th, at different locations. For more information, see Bare Theatre’s website.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 28th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/bare-theater-presents-timon-athens-club-shows/ and Feb. 21st mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/events/bare-theater-presents-timon-athens-community-shows_2/; Feb. 13th Hillsborough, NC WHUP/104.7 FM interview with director Dustin Britt and cast members, conducted by Wayne Leonard for “Lights Up!”: https://whupfm.org/episode/lights-up-2-13-19-permanent-archive/ (starts at the 39:00 mark); and Feb. 6th Cary, NC RDU on Stage video interview with director Dustin Britt and cast members, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://rduonstage.com/2019/02/06/video-interview-with-the-cast-creatives-of-bare-theatres-timon-of-athens/, (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the March 2nd Triangle Review review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/03/clever-staging-and-energetic-performances-make-bare-theatres-timon-of-athens-well-worth-seeing/.)
Bare Theatre presents TIMON OF ATHENS at 8 p.m. March 2, 7, 9, 14, and 15 at The Wicked Witch [Club Shows for ages 18+] , 416 W. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601; and 7 p.m. March 8 and 16 at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church [Community Shows for ages 13+] , 622 Maywood Ave., Raleigh, North Carolina 27603.
TICKETS: $18 for audience members 18+ at The Wicked Witch and $15 (suggested donation) or pay-what-you-can for audience members 13+ at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church.
BOX OFFICE: https://baretheatre.org/tickets/ for The Wicked Witch and pay-at-the-door for St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church.
SHOW: http://baretheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/events/320222205498775/ (The Wicked Witch), and https://www.facebook.com/events/376149009811158/ (St. John’s MCC).
NEWS RELEASE: https://baretheatre.org/timon-of-athens-press-release/.
THE CAST: https://baretheatre.org/shows/timon-cast/.
PRESENTER: http://baretheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/BareTheatre, https://twitter.com/baretheatre, and https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBareTheatre.
BLOG (https://baretheatre.org/category/blog/): https://baretheatre.org/category/blog/.
The Wicked Witch: http://wickedwitchraleigh.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/919WickedWitch/ (directions/map: https://goo.gl/maps/jL43iGdetoE2).
St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church: https://www.stjohnsmcc.org/, https://www.facebook.com/stjohnsmcc/, https://twitter.com/stjohnsmcc, https://www.youtube.com/user/StJohnsMCC76, and (directions/map: https://www.stjohnsmcc.org/about/directions.html).
Timon of Athens, a.k.a. The Life of Tymon of Athens (1605-08 five-act tragedy): https://www.britannica.com/topic/Timon-of-Athens (Encyclopædia Britannica), https://www.folger.edu/timon-of-athens (Folger Shakespeare Library), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timon_of_Athens (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://firstfolio.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ff/tim/ (The Bodleian First Folio).
Study Guide: https://www.bard.org/study-guides/timon-of-athens-study-guide?rq=timon%20of%20athens (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
William Shakespeare (Elizabethan and Jacobean actor, playwright, and poet, 1564-1616): https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Shakespeare (Encyclopædia Britannica), https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare (Folger Shakespeare Library), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).
Thomas Middleton (Jacobean playwright and poet, 1580-1627): https://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Middleton (Encyclopædia Britannica), https://emed.folger.edu/taxonomy/term/1296 (Folger Shakespeare Library), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Middleton (Wikipedia).
Dustin K. Britt (director): https://www.facebook.com/dkbritt (Facebook page).
Melanie Simmons of Cary, NC is a film and stage actress with a BA degree in Theatre from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. She also studied dance at San Diego Mesa College and acting with Sande Shurin Acting Studios in New York City and at The Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles, CA. She has performed locally at the Holly Springs Cultural Center in Holly Springs, Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio in Raleigh, and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum in Cary. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.