Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Timon of Athens
Folger Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Master Class, and coverage of the 2017 Helen Hayes Awards

Eric Hissom, top, and
Ian Merrill Peakes

Photo by Teresa Wood
Timon of Athens has always been an odd duck among William Shakespeare's plays, with a central character whose personality changes from kindly and benevolent to vicious and disgusted with humanity. Robert Richmond, who directs the slightly futuristic production at Washington's Folger Theatre, calls it a "tragic satire."

For all the play's difficulties, this production is well worth seeing, in particular for Ian Merrill Peakes' admirable job navigating the character's contradictions and Tony Cisek's sleek scenic design.

While Shakespeare was writing at a time when royalty and nobles used elaborate shows of hospitality to forge alliances, Richmond presents a society where the most important aspect of life is its appearance. When Timon pays a friend's debts and buys opulent gifts, no money changes hands in this world; projection designer Francesca Talenti depicts the transactions as streams of glittering coin-like objects skimming across a screen. On the other hand, in this world every guest at Timon's lavish banquet is identified with a retinal scan announcing the person's name and occupation.

Timon believes that the people he hosts are his friends and never doubts that they would help him in a time of need. He ignores the warnings of Flavius (Antoinette Robinson), his business manager and only true friend, and bankrupts himself, only to learn that the people he has supported feel no reciprocal obligation toward him.

As a work of theater, Timon of Athens suffers from a lack of characters with more than one dimension. Aside from Timon, Flavius, and the cynical philosopher Apemantus (Eric Hissom), they are mostly cartoons: fatuous merchants bragging about the quality of their goods, pompous senators in identical robes, women who use their bodies as a form of currency. At one moment, Richmond makes the subtext literal, showing Timon's guests with knives and forks, about to devour him.

Cisek's set transforms the Folger's Tudor-style theater, sheathing the dark woodwork with shiny, antiseptic metal surfaces, lit by Andrew F. Griffin's cool, almost unearthly lighting. Mariah Hale's costumes trace Timon's descent from the unruffled host in his crisp three-piece suit to the despairing man living in isolation.

Folger Theatre
Timon of Athens
May 9th - June 11th, 2017
By William Shakespeare
Ventidius, Bandit: Louis Butelli
Phrynia: Aliyah Caldwell
Alcibiades: Mahmoud Ebrahimzadeh
Cupid, Senator, Bandit, Servant: John Floyd
Timandra: Amanda Forstrom
Jeweler, Sempronius, Bandit: Sean Fri
Apemantus: Eric Hissom
Painter, Lucullus: Andhy Mendez
Timon of Athens: Ian Merrill Peakes
Flavius: Antoinette Robinson
Poet, Lucius, Senator: Michael Dix Thomas
Merchant, Senator: Kathryn Tkel
Directed by Robert Richmond
Folger Shakespeare Library, Elizabethan Theatre
201 E. Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or

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