Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Life and Times of Timon of Athens"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Joe Coyne

“The Life and Times of Timon of Athens”

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Thomas Caron

Produced by Thomas Caron
Costumes by Tracy Wall


Flaminia Laura Sweet
Lucilius Deron Cluff
Flavia Lida McGirr
A Painter Chet Orlando
A Senator Myron Feld
Timandra Kerrie Miller
Phrynia Liza Dickinson
A Poet Mikki Lipsey
Timon Thomas Caron
Alcibiades Webb Tilney
Ventidiius David Dickinson

On a very hot summer day nothing is less likely to be pleasing than an outdoor performance of a most obscure and confusing Shakespearian play full of sound and fury signifying very, very little. But The Town Cow Theater Company impressively beats the odds and presents a lucid and remarkably clear telling of a rich man’s climb into poverty and the conclusions he then draws about life from friends who have vastly overgorged on his wealth.

Timon is a generous man, too generous with assets he does not have. Initially his largess is for good causes: save a life, endow a faithful servant. It soon appears Timon possess as little common sense as he does funds. Instead of appreciating Timon’s generosity, the recipients of his gifts see him as something of a rube: there for the taking. When Timon’s philanthropic excesses are pointed out to him, he expresses an optimism that friends will come to his financial assistance and provide for him in return. Each such friend fails when called upon. They beg his indulgence with excuses of superior need and provide rationales refusing to contribute to his “recapitalization”. One states as her refusal to assist Timon solely because she was the last to be asked.

Timon retaliates and his final gift to each former friend is one of stones and lukewarm water along with a parting curse to the people of Athens. He advises 16 year old sons to kill their fathers, bankrupts to cut the throats of their creditors and maids to sleep with their masters. His rants and raves interweave this corruption of society motif with another issue not previously alluded to: sexual immorality and sexual diseases. A bit on the excessive side: so much more tirade than blame assessment.

Timon then withdraws to the woods (perhaps Walden as the program is subtitled “A Transcendentalist Tale” set in Athens, Massachusetts in 1845) where he continues his downward spiral and limits his dialogues to only rants, raves and curses. Timon when confronted by his steward is not able to discern loyalty and concern for Timon’s wellbeing from the falseness of the Athenians he has helped. His faithful servant and Alcibiades, a soldier who he had rescued are cast in with the rest as whores and miscreants. Everyone is viewed as gift-grubbers, users and decadent deviants. He is a stranger in his own land.

Perhaps it is because Timon has no wife, no children, no ties, no familial bonds that he drops so low without a single consideration of alternatives. There is no female of standing (in the original play) who is not a whore. As Timon’s initial beliefs in the excessive goodness of people are unrealistic, when they swing 180 degrees they continue to be unrealistic. Timon, either as a wronged idealist or a fool, goes to his grave with his rants; not a musing, not a thinking, not a wondering about the way of things.

Well it is not all that clear, but certainly clearer than the unfinished script left in a drawer by Shakespeare. While many plays are produced in need of work, “Timons” is near the top and should be considered a 400 year old work in progress. Loose ends, starts of story lines, different names of the same character: these require coherent decisions and adjustments to move the story in a single direction. Thomas Caron has done this and has given the work his overview and through line. His alterations limit some of the considerations above: Mr. Caron has cast the faithful steward as a women and rescues the breed from the usual historic view. The stage is in a sheltered area of Ann Chamberlain Park with a sufficient wooded area. Mr. Caron has worked the stage area well utilizing these back woods besides Timon’s house and even has Timon in davycrocket skins climbing a tree to the rear of the audience, matching the actions with the tirades. Tracy Wall designed the costumes which confirm a solid Sturbridge village theme.

Timon’s final advice to the good people of Athens is an unexpected, excessive curse from deep within his tortured soul, something we are not prepared for. His death wish for himself and for society is rooted somewhere in the undisclosed mind of Shakespeare. Perhaps this is the reason for Shakespeare’s failure to continue on with the project.

Timon was written in about 1607 between “Coriolanus”, a severe, rigid arrogant general who does not make it out of his play alive, but pleases his mother by doing the right thing in dying well; and “Pericles” another recluse who withdraws from the perceived evils of society but is rescued by his daughter, the start of four Shakespeare plays where innocent youth redeems the unbalanced old. Whatever the case, “Timon” is still highly theatrical and still delivers a powerful message. Highlighting this month’s theme it would reflect the greed inherent in ERONitis and society’s need to take just a little bit more from the public jar, this one last time: justifying what appears to be business as usual

Mr. Caron also plays the lead with a crafted eerie disregard of others, fused with inner energy allowing Timon to control the stage. We are watching Mr. Caron for his next move which progresses at his dictated pace. The other characters are in awe of Timon as are the actors of Mr. Caron. Lida McGirr as the Steward displays a steady loyalty and a resigned faithfulness to Timon that is not deserved. She positions herself as a loyal dog awaiting, trying to interject order while there is still time: she is the carrier of the bad news message. Her poignant moment at the end of this play merely watching, conveys her failure to reach a man she feels she should have been able to influence (this could be a different and more enjoyable play though) “The Life and Times of Timon” continues on urging the destruction of Athens until August 18th at Ann Chamberlain Park (just at the start of Lowell Road in the center of Concord). There is easy parking next door at a church

Joe Coyne

"Coriolanus" (31 October - 25 November)
Chamberlain Park (just at the start of Lowell Road in the center of Concord).


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