TIMON OF ATHENS by William Shakespeare, directed by Stephen Ouimette, with Peter Donaldson, Tom McCamus, Sean Arbuckle, Bernard Hopkins, Robert Persichini and Ron Kennell. Presented by the Stratford Festival at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford. Runs in rep to September 25. $66.65-$90.70. 1-800-567-1600. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The tale of an open-hearted philanthropist who's taken advantage of by his supposed friends, Timon Of Athens is probably Shakespeare 's sourest play. It's not an easy work to perform, because at first it's possible to see Timon as too gullible and later as too bitter.
But the Stratford production, directed by Stephen Ouimette - this fine, thoughtful actor should spend more time in the director's chair - captures the audience with some strong performances and compelling storytelling. Though it's given a contemporary and attractive staging by designers Lorenzo Savoini , Dana Osborne and Bonnie Beecher , there's a quality of an old-fashioned fairy tale in the way it's played out.
Without a quality performer as Timon, no production could succeed. Ouimette has that in actor Peter Donaldson , who progresses from a good-natured innocent to a railer against a world he believes has neither justice nor goodness. The banquet scene, in which he turns nearly homicidal on those who would milk him of all his wealth, is incendiary, as Timon transforms chillingly from mildness to madness.
Donaldson's surrounded by some equally vivid performers, notably Tom McCamus as the satiric Apemantus - here a 60s hippie in the midst of upper-class businessmen - who pours bile on everyone. Their interaction in the second act, in which Timon and Apemantus joust with their respective pessimistic views and Apemantus is finally moved by Timon's darker frame of mind, is some of the best acting at Stratford this season
Among Timon's fair-weather friends, Robert Persichini and Ron Kennell stand out, as does Bernard Hopkins as Timon's loyal steward, a practical, low-key number-cruncher who acts as a voice of conscience and doesn't desert his master in hard times.
It's not a perfect show - the script is occasionally repetitive, and some performances tend toward the wooden - but this Timon is a powerful theatrical look at one bleak aspect of humanity.