We attended the Thursday, March 7th, performance of the Club Show for ages 18+ version of Bare Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens at The Wicked Witch in Raleigh, NC (one of two alternating venues for the show). The best words to describe director Dustin Britt’s interpretation of the play would be immersive and intense. Indeed, promotions for the show include the following warnings (which Triangle theatergoers would be wise to heed):
Sensory warning: Rapid changes in lighting color and intensity, including darkness. Sudden loud music and voices. Actors very near the audience. Moving, flashing light patterns. Theatrical fog.
Content warning: Recommended for patrons age 13+. Physical violence, drug & alcohol abuse, sexual harassment & innuendo, physical & verbal intimacy, homelessness, kidnapping, death, discussion of military violence, interactions with law enforcement.
It is also worth noting, up-front, that director Dustin Britt chose to use cross-gender casting. That is, the main characters (Timon, Alcibiades, and Apemantus) are all played as women rather than men; and many other roles are also cast against gender-expectations. Some patrons might find that they like the show “in spite of the gender-bending”; others will find the production enhanced “because of it.”
Entering The Wicked Witch (at the foot of the steps), we had our first encounter with one of the play’s characters. We soon learned that we had ventured into “Club Athens,” and we were greeted by the bouncer, Servilius (played as a full-fledged tough-a** by Rebecca Ashley Jones). Mounting the stairs, we were enveloped by “theatrical fog” (but not very thick); and we soon found ourselves on the perimeter of the “Club Athens” dance floor, where we took front-row seats. Even though we had arrived 30 minutes before show time, actors were dancing to 1980s music and interacting with each other. Promptly at 8 p.m. (show time), the cast transitioned into the tightly executed, brisk routines of Heather J. Strickland’s choreography; and the intense spectacle of the play began.
The plot to William Shakespeare’s play is rather simple. Timon is overly generous, giving away money right and left to anyone and everyone. Timon goes broke, loses everything, and owes tremendous sums of money. All friends abandon Timon.
Timon becomes a misanthrope, leaves the city to live in the wilderness, and eventually dies — alone. Timon’s anti-social railings when visited in the wilderness by several Athenians are reminiscent of those of Thercytes in Troilus and Cressida, and Timon’s language is also vaguely similar to the rantings of Edgar (as Tom O’Bedlam) in King Lear.
Kacey Reynolds Schedler skillfully portrays Timon as the sincerely concerned, generous friend-to-all who writes and hands out checks with abandon in the first act. And she navigates her character through disappointment and disillusionment all the way to the venomous sarcasm and thirst for revenge of the second act.
The entire cast performs well as both actors and dancers. Arin Dickson skillfully handles the physicality required of her as General Alcibiades as well as the character’s shift in demeanor in the second act. And Emily Levinstone plays the skeptical, aloof Apemantus almost as if offering this character as an example of a middle-ground alternative to Timon’s extremes.
Another stand-out is Naveed Moeed as Flavius (Timon’s accountant). He is engrossing as he speaks intimately with the audience concerning Timon’s bankruptcy.
A notable strength in the production is Matthew Tucker’s lighting effects, which created the over-the-top world of “Club Athens” and the dark wilderness scenes. Indeed, the lighting and the acting in the wilderness scenes were so intensely appropriate that they raised the quality of the performance to the level of hypnotic.
Another interesting (and masterful) choice is the layout of the banquet scenes — the only scenes that take place on the actual stage of The Wicked Witch (as opposed to the dance floor). Even though the scenes contained fewer characters, their common landscape reminded us of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper, in which Jesus symbolically shares his “body and blood” with his disciples. We were treated to three instances of this tableau; and the transformation of the inherent, successive implications were fittingly unsettling.
An impressive fact: in addition to Dickson and Schedler (who each play only one character), the other 10 actors cover 36 roles. If you are impressed by actors who move fluidly from one character to another and back again, come see Timon of Athens.
If you have never witnessed “synchronized lap-dancing,” come see Timon.
If “seeing each of Shakespeare’s plays at least once” is on your bucket list, come see Timon.
This is a production that is infused with imagination and energy. We heartily recommend it.
SECOND OPINION: March 8th Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars): https://indyweek.com/culture/stage/street-punks-siege-athens-in-a-cathartic-shakespeare-update/, Feb. 28th 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/; March 4th Cary, NC RDU on Stage review by Kim Jackson: https://rduonstage.com/2019/03/04/review-trippy-timon-of-athens-captures-essence-of-a-decadent-decade/ and Feb. 6th 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/; and 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). (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the March 2nd Triangle Review review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle and March 2nd review by Melanie Simmons, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/03/clever-staging-and-energetic-performances-make-bare-theatres-timon-of-athens-well-worth-seeing/ and http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/03/bare-theatres-flamboyant-timon-of-athens-is-a-bold-sassy-and-raw-passion-project/, respectively.)
Bare Theatre presents TIMON OF ATHENS at 8 p.m. March 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 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.
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, and https://www.youtube.com/user/StJohnsMCC76 (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 Britt (director): https://www.facebook.com/dkbritt (Facebook page).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.