Has anyone been more studied than the playwright, William Shake- speare? Certainly no writer of plays has! Between 1592 and 1612 he is credited with writing all or most of 37 plays. In the United States, the Folger Shake- speare Library and Theater here in Washington, D.C. is ground zero for all things Shakespeare in this country. Of those 37 plays, I have seen productions of Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, A Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Two Gentleman of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Henry V, and Macbeth. All of which are among the more renowned plays. So Friday evening's production of Timon of Athens represented my first foray into a considerably lesser work by the noted Bard. And it was not treated like minor member of the illustrious portfolio. The Folger Theatre took this bull by the horns and wrestled it for all it was worth!
Over the years I have also seen my share of "concept" productions. The afore mentioned Two Gentlemen was set in gangster 1920's Chicago in a Savannah, Georgia Shakespeare Theatre in the Park production to disastrous results! And the most recent version of Romeo Juliet that I saw was set in a contemporary Italy with techno DJ's. This production went one better. It was set in a dystopian future with plenty of special effects and data collection. And it was marvelous.
But settings, sets and costumes aside--Shakespeare is 99.9% acting and this production was superbly anchored by Ian Merrill Peakes in the title role. His timing was spot on and the transformation from the wealthy patron of the local artisans to a nearly demented disillusioned recluse was compelling at every moment along the way. Other stand out cast members included Andhy Mendez and Michael Dix Thomas. It's hard to imagine a better retelling of this odd member of the Shakespeare repertoire.