You can’t help but think that the late Montford Park Players founder Hazel Robinson is smiling down upon the theater company as its 45th year of live Shakespeare in the park kicks off with Timon of Athens. This is the final show of the Bard’s canon for the company to tackle, completing its mission of performing all of Shakespeare’s plays. The show runs through Saturday, May 27.
Adrian Suskauer directs a small company of actors through this lesser-known play, providing a lean and wholly entertaining evening. The play tells the tale of a wealthy Athenian known for his excessive generosity, but the show (as Shakespeare penned it) is riddled with numerous characters and plot threads that have no resolution, leading some to believe that it was not an actual completed work. Suskauer has trimmed much of the excess from the script, making for a tight, two-hour production that focuses on the central plot and does away with a lot of extraneous text. As a result, this is one of the shortest Shakespeare experiences for local audiences who are used to plays that clock in around the three-hour mark.
The play charts the fall from grace of Timon, whose acts of ample generosity lead him to financial ruin. Those who once gathered around him to be in his magnanimous presence now shun him. Discovering that his friendships were based not on loyalty but greed made by his own excessive giving, Timon rejects Athens and makes his way to a tattered life as a hermit, living in a cave.
As Timon, Jon Stockdale strikes an impressive visage on the stage. He is tall and youthful, yet regal, in his purple robes and bejeweled adornments. Stockdale plays Timon with a vigor as the man of the people, then deconstructs to anger when his fortunes turn.
Hannah Williams-Beaver plays Alcibiades, a loyal soldier, who stands with Timon and defends his honor, even at personal cost to her reputation among the elite of Athens. Williams-Beaver takes the typically male role and makes it her own with a strong and impassioned performance. Will Storrs, as nobleman Lucullus, gives a memorable turn with light touches to this tragedy. The ever-quirky and quick-witted Devyn Ray shines in the role of Apemantus, lending a well-placed snide remark and a little sideways glance of knowing mockery to a show that could otherwise come off as dark and dreary.
Any cast that contains the likes of David Mycoff, Sophie Yates and Trissa King is sure to be interesting to watch. All deliver solid performances. The standout is Sonia D’Andrea as Flavius, who dedicates herself to trying to save Timon from his spiral of anger and self-loathing. D’Andrea takes this role and makes it so compelling that you can’t take your eyes off her.
There is something special about this long-standing Asheville tradition of free outdoor theater that the Montford Park Players provide. Picnics, bottles of wine, pints of local brews and a setting sun combine for a perfect atmosphere. In the world of local theater, these are the official signs that summer is on its way.
WHAT: Timon of Athens
WHERE: Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, 92 Gay St., montfordparkplayers.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, May 27. Fridays and Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m. Free