Capsule review: Timon of Athens – Oregon Shakespeare Festival

This is the second capsule review (of five) for the plays I saw last week in Ashland as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2016 season. Full reviews will be in the podcast on Sunday.

Now: Timon of Athens.

Timon of Athens -- 2016 OSF
Timon of Athens — 2016 OSF

Last Wednesday afternoon, Lisa and I saw Timon of Athens in the big indoor Bowmer Theater. Now this is one of those cases where I’m thrilled by the OSF’s “Canon in a Decade” initiative, in which they will present all of Shakespeare’s plays over the course of the next 10 years. I’m not sure I’d get a chance to see Timon otherwise.

I certainly won’t get to see another one like this again. Director Amanda Dehnert pretty much guaranteed that with this production.

It was crazy. From a curtain that practically shouted a long quote from Marx, to on-stage music, to wild color and costuming, to signed commentary by what appeared to be a member of the Occupy Movement. It certainly wasn’t your daddy’s Shakespeare. I think my first reaction, which I tweeted out at intermission, about sums up what I saw:

If the colorful uniformed characters were the Fellini, then the mad feast scene, complete with puppet (dancers?) prostitutes, that are raped and mutilated or mutilated and then raped, all while dancing in what appeared to be an orgiastic food fight, well then that’s your Peter Greenaway.

Anthony Heald plays an absolutely on-point Timon, tearing down his world, becoming the ultimate misanthrope. And let’s just say it doesn’t end happily. It’s a sensationalistic approach and–for me, at least–it completely paid off. I thought it was absolutely jaw-droppingly powerful. A few audience members on the way out used the term “tour de force.” Others “wild” “intense” and those who probably thinking more along the terms of WTF, were saying “well, it was different.”

That it certainly was…and I recommend it highly. NOTE: we saw the first matinee preview performance…I can only assume the production will intensify as the run continues.

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