Sunday, July 13, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: TIMON OF ATHENS

By Toby Zinman For the Inquirer The Philadelphia Artists Collective (aka PAC) shows its collective courage once again. In choosing to give us a rare production of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, they undertake what few theater companies dare to do. It’s a tough play, full of unlikable characters and difficult language; it hammers home the same idea over and over again, and this requires power and subtlety of delivery. So I’m torn between admiration for PAC’s valiant attempt, and disappointment in their production. Written (probably) in 1605, Timon was never performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime; that date makes it contemporaneous with King Lear with which it has much in common. Both are about old men who make profound and catastrophic errors in judgment; both go mad, and both have loyal servants, but nobody thinks of Timon of Athens as a great tragedy. Timon (Christopher Coucil) starts out as a rich nobleman; he is, literally, generous to a fault, wining and dining his friends, pressing valuable gifts on them, assuming the affection is returned. He has been warned by his steward (Nathan Foley) of the disastrous state of his finances, and chided by a cynic (Charlotte Northeast) for his gullibility. His so-called friends all are greedy hypocrites (these actors signal their characters’ slimy natures rather too blatantly), and they will all desert him once they discover that he has run through his fortune. Timon retreats from the city in despair and disgust at human nature. The relevance to the contemporary world is clear: grasping, ruthless people control the social world as well as the government, and war heroes, like the fierce Alcibiades (Jihad Milhem) go unappreciated. This relevance should have made it easy to find some contemporary style for the production rather than these distractingly awful costumes. It’s hard to do opulence on a shoestring, but if all you have is a shoestring, you need to abandon makeshift togas and high-heeled sandals (!?) and use some imagination. As director, Dan Hodge makes a tactical error in casting women in many of the male roles; it knocks the play off balance (tiny women playing cutthroats and shrill senators), and confuses the issues which have nothing to do with gender. The music, which begins at odd moments, is really really annoying. ==================== Philadelphia Artists Collective at Broad Street Ministry, 315 S. Broad St. Through April 20. Tickets $20. Information: 800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com

Review: TIMON OF ATHENS

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By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
 
The Philadelphia Artists Collective (aka PAC) shows its collective courage once again. In choosing to give us a rare production of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens, they undertake what few theater companies dare to do. It’s a tough play, full of unlikable characters and difficult language; it hammers home the same idea over and over again, and this requires power and subtlety of delivery. So I’m torn between admiration for PAC’s valiant attempt, and disappointment in their production.
 
Written (probably) in 1605, Timon was never performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime; that date makes it contemporaneous with King Lear with which it has much in common. Both are about old men who make profound and catastrophic errors in judgment; both go mad, and both have loyal servants, but nobody thinks of Timon of Athens  as a great tragedy.
 
Timon (Christopher Coucil) starts out as a rich nobleman; he is, literally, generous to a fault, wining and dining his friends, pressing valuable gifts on them, assuming the affection is returned. He has been warned by his steward  (Nathan Foley) of the disastrous state of his finances, and chided by a cynic (Charlotte Northeast) for his gullibility. His so-called friends all are greedy hypocrites (these actors signal their characters’ slimy natures rather too blatantly), and they will all desert him once they discover that he has run through his fortune. Timon retreats from the city in despair and disgust at human nature.
 
The relevance to the contemporary world is clear: grasping, ruthless people control the social world as well as the government, and war heroes, like the fierce Alcibiades (Jihad Milhem) go unappreciated. This relevance should have made it easy to find some contemporary style for the production rather than these distractingly awful costumes. It’s hard to do opulence on a shoestring, but if all you have is a shoestring, you need to abandon makeshift togas and high-heeled sandals (!?) and use some imagination.
 
As director, Dan Hodge makes a tactical error in casting women in many of the male roles; it knocks the play off balance (tiny women playing cutthroats and shrill senators), and confuses the issues which have nothing to do with gender.  The music, which begins at odd moments, is really really annoying.
 
====================
Philadelphia Artists Collective at Broad Street Ministry, 315 S. Broad St. Through April 20. Tickets $20. Information: 800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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