The “true Hollywood story” and cautionary tale of a personage of Athens — “the wealthy son of Echecratides who lavished money on flattering friends” — Timon of Athens is an early co-work of Shakespeare that is rarely staged. Perhaps this is because it can be deep, heavy, and somewhat confusing. Or — dare we say — perhaps too many in DC might recognize themselves in some character of the play.
You have to really pay attention to fully understand the nuances in this one. Timon is a giver (that also loves the attention). Timon says “I am wealthy in my friends,” and truly believes that friendships and promises are connected to loyalty and not just money and favors. But despite the great banquets and benevolence, Timon of Athens turns out to be quite the tragedy.
When the funds run out and the creditors come to call, do benefactors of Timon’s excessive patronage repay the generosity? Nope. Ghosted.
Timon becomes enraged with the insincerity and hypocrisy and exiles to the wilderness. Left with less than nothing and scrounging for roots to eat, Timon ironically finds a buried box of gold. Suddenly those fair-weather friends are scrambling to get back in the misanthrope’s good graces. But Timon won’t be fooled.
There’s more to the story — enemies of Athens, a foil to Timon’s character, and even a painter and a poet that provide some unappetizing comic relief — but there’s really one reason you must see this run, Simon Godwin’s STC directorial debut of Timon of Athens. You can’t take your eyes off of Kathryn Hunter (Timon). Even Godwin says, she “cast a spell on me,” and only this force of nature could make the corruption and parasitic behavior of
DC Athens as riveting a theatrical reveal.
At its base, Timon of Athens is a play about reciprocity. Reciprocity of friendship, of kindness, of respect… or of ill will.
Timon’s foil Apamantus (Arnie Burton) laments, “The middle of humanity thou never knewest, but the extremity of both ends.” That’s Timon of Athens. But isn’t that also right now?
Timon of Athens performs in the Michael R. Klein (formerly Lansburgh) Theatre through March 22, 2020. The play runs about 2.5 hours with one 15 minute intermission.
ProTip: Order today and save 50% on A and B seats to any performance with the code TIMON50. But hurry! This offer expires Sunday, March 1.