Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Timon of Athens
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of The Amen Corner

Kathryn Hunter
Photo by Gerry Goodstein
Timon of Athens is a problematic play in William Shakespeare's canon, with its jarring shifts in mood and attitude, but the production now at the Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh in Washington is both visually thrilling and intellectually fascinating. Simon Godwin, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, has restaged his production that previously played at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and Theatre for a New Audience in New York City.

Godwin (who cites recent scholarship in his citing of Thomas Middleton as Shakespeare's co-author) has built the production around Kathryn Hunter in the title role, traditionally played by a man. She's hypnotic to watch as her character discovers that wealth can't buy true friendship, and self-knowledge takes hard work.

The arc of the play is fairly simple: When Timon is rich and generous, hosting lavish parties and bestowing elegant gifts, her friends love her. When her money runs out and she asks those same people for help, believing "I am wealthy in my friends," they refuse her. The proud woman who first appears in a burnished gold gown eventually is humbled, wearing a plain white tunic as she searches for sustenance in the wilderness outside Athens.

Godwin's luxurious staging benefits from Soutra Gilmour's scenic and costume designs, both of which center around emblematic hues: gold, black, and white, with shocking accents of blood red and the brown color of dirt. At the beginning of the play, Timon entertains her guests with golden plates and goblets; the only one who doesn't wear the color is the cynical philosopher Apemantus (Arnie Burton) in his T-shirt, cardigan, and black jeans. Everything changes in the second act, when the disillusioned Timon is reduced to digging for roots to eat and encounters a ragged band of dispossessed Athenians led by Alcibiades (Elia Monte-Brown).

Burton, whose delivery suggests a 21st-century comedian or political pundit, makes a strong impression, while John Rothman offers quiet grace as Timon's faithful steward. Adding to the heightened atmosphere are Donald Holder's penetrating lighting design, Christopher Shutt's sound design, and the presence of three musicians performing Michael Bruce's score, joined by singer Kristen Misthopoulos.

Timon of Athens runs through March 22, 2020, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh, 450 Seventh St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or visit

By William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton, edited by Emily Burns and Simon Godwin. Directed by Simon Godwin. A co-production with Theatre for a New Audience, in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company

Lucia: Shirine Babb
Apemantus: Arnie Burton
Flaminia: Helen Cespedes
Demetrius: Liam Craig
The Painter: Zachary Fine
Poet: Yonatan Gebeyehu
Timon: Kathryn Hunter
Lucilius: Adam Langdon
Greek Singer: Kristen Misthopoulos
Alcibiades: Elia Monte-Brown
Jeweller: Julia Ogilvie Sempronius: Daniel Pearce
Lucullus: Dave Quay
Flavius: John Rothman