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'New' Shakespeare Play Seeks Out Those Who Don't Like The Bard

"Timon of Athens" brings a different flair to Madison stage.

Don't care for Shakespeare? An updated production of a rarely-seen play could change your point of view.

After a thirty-year hiatus, is presenting Timon of Athens, a show that promises to not be your traditional Shakespeare production by working in the combined theatrical styles of vaudeville, Grand Guignol, and Brecht to help tell the story.

Unlike Shakespeare classics such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth, Timon finds more contemporary elements to which the audience can relate. According to director Brian B. Crowe, there has been a recent renewed interest in the play. “Themes of financial stability, friendship, and loyalty have been more palpable to today’s world,” he says.

The story is about a friendly philanthropist named Timon, played by Greg Jackson, whose generosity leads to personal turmoil, proving that karma affects not only the bad but the good as well. Timon frequently gives away his wealth and treasures to his “friends,” who gladly accept them and take advantage of his good nature. Timon’s money runs out and he cannot pay his debt to the numerous debt collectors who frequent his home. He turns to his “friends” for help but they refuse, giving excuses. This sends Timon into a rage fueled by his hatred for mankind, and from then on he prefers to live in a cave rather than among enemies. Ultimately, Timon discovers his one true friend in his trusty steward, Flavius, played by John Seidman.

Besides being a more modern tale, what is really intriguing is the style of movement that greets the audience as soon as they enter the theater, and which is employed sporadically throughout the show. Described as “mechanical music box movement” by Crowe and several other names by the cast, at different points in the play the actors engage in robotic, repetitive gestures and repeat words, thus making the show that much more unique. You have not seen Shakespeare like this before!

The play is quite humorous from beginning to end, though the first and second halves seem like two separate stories. The first half consists of joyful partying and the mechanical actions whereas in the second half, after Timon is rejected, the story takes a depressing turn and seems to resemble traditional Shakespeare with its monologues, emotion, and intense dialogue. The methods contrast sharply, yet produce a decent balance.

Though the whole play consists of very interesting and dynamic characters, one that deserves special mention is The Barker, played by Jessica Ires Morris. As the only character to address the audience, points out the flaws of mankind through the characters.

There is no intermission, but Timon promises to be an enjoyable ninety minutes of pure theatrical gold.

Timon of Athens will be playing at the Shakespeare Theatre until July 24.

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