Timon of Athens

False Friends and Foes   

Last year, we saw Joseph Ziegler own the stage at the Tom Patterson Theatre as Joe Keller in All My Sons, in a heart wrenching story that led to his character’s ruination.  This year, Ziegler is again commanding that same stage in Shakespearean tragedy that similarly ends in his destruction.

Ziegler has complete possession of Timon of Athens, both as the title character and as the actor who has completely invested himself into that role.

Timon is a wealthy socialite who is very generous – throwing big parties and giving lavish gifts to all his many friends.  In return, the so-called friends shower him with insincere compliments and flattery, hoping to stay in his favour for the next round of parties and gifts.

 At one party, a jaded philosopher, Apemantus (Ben Carlson) mocks his lifestyle.  Then Timon’s faithful servant, Flavius, (Michael Spencer-Davis) warns him that he is too generous and is running out of money because he is giving too much away.  When Timon runs into financial troubles and the creditors show up at his door, he goes to some of the friends who have been the recipients of his generosity in the past.  None will help him; in fact, they just gossip about his situation.  Timon ends up living alone in a rocky cave, eating roots to survive.

There is a military subplot that adds to the tension as Timon’s world crumbles. At first, the play is a condemnation of consumerism and showy, excessive wealth; later it becomes a warning about false friends.

Ziegler makes Timon’s life believable.  His transition from the well-dressed gentleman, who is the life of the party, to a dirty, miserable, angry man living a meager existence might be too far-fetched, were it not for Ziegler’s commitment to the role.

Ben Carlson is a powerful Apemantus, annoying but not quite nasty enough to turn the audience against him.  Spencer-Davis is excellent as Flavius, the servant who remains loyal to Timon, as he sees his finances collapsing.

Credit goes to director Stephen Ouimette for creating a believable story.  The audience can recognize the characters, partially because they are appearing in modern dress while speaking Elizabethan English.  Timon’s home is trendy and ultra-modern with clear acrylic chairs at long tables. The male party guests are dressed in popular tight-fitting blue suits with tan–brown shoes. When a poet and painter visit, they want selfies with Timon.

Timon of Athens is not one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays.  In fact, there are those who think Shakespeare had a collaborator, or else didn’t write it at all. Nevertheless, with a strong cast and solid direction, Stratford Festival’s current production provides an interesting character study.

Timon of Athens continues in repertoire until October 22 at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford.  Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check www.stratfordfestival.ca

Photo: Joseph Ziegler (centre) as Timon with members of the company in Timon of Athens. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Timon of Athens
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Stephen Ouimette
Performed by Joseph Ziegler, Ben Carlson, Michael Spencer-Davis et al
Produced by the Stratford Festival
Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford
June 2 to October 22, 2017
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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