Money Changes Everything: Remi Sandri's title character spreads the wealth in Pacific Repertory's production of Shakespeare's late tragedy, 'Timon of Athens.'
Penthouse to Pavement
PacRep's timely 'Timon of Athens' chronicles a plummet from hedonism to homelessness
By Joyce D. Mann
One of Shakespeare's later plays, Timon of Athens, was never performed in his lifetime, and was even rumored to be unfinished. That said, there's nothing unfinished about the current production of the play at the PacRep Theatre in Carmel.
Directed by Kenneth Kelleher and set more or less in the present day, the play has disturbingly contemporary overtones. Timon (Remi Sandri) is reputedly a wealthy Athenian, who lavishes time and money on his friends and acquaintances. He flits from board room to penthouse, throwing wild parties, bringing in exotic ladies of ill repute, and spending money as if there's no tomorrow. Sound familiar? It should to those who remember the dotcom bubble, where people lost their mansions, expensive cars and possessions when the bubble finally burst.
Ignoring the warnings of his long-suffering Steward, Flavius (Michael D. Jacobs), Timon is shattered when he learns that he is indeed bankrupt. His property is foreclosed, and if he'd had credit cards, they would have certainly been "maxed" out. His so-called friends and hangers-on are nowhere to be found. Everything is lost, and Timon ends up in a "box city" homeless encampment. While scavenging for food, he comes upon a bag of gold. At this point, having abandoned philanthropy for misanthropy, Timon decides to use his newly found wealth to destroy Athens and his former friends and associates.
The play is really all about Timon. Sandri dominates the proceedings, sustaining his level of intensity from start to finish. While totally convincing as the all-too-familiar glad-handing executive, Sandri's performance is at its peak, however, as the homeless Timon, a bitter and enraged man, who appears to be losing his sanity. When his old friends, hearing that he is back in the money, approach him, he tosses the money at them, on condition that they use it to do ill deeds against their fellow Athenians. He is impervious to reason.
The supporting cast is excellent. Jacob's sober and disapproving Steward is a sharp contrast with the hedonistic Athenians. Mairtin O'Carrigan is very much into the role of the cynical and disheveled philosopher, Apemantus. His performance is natural and well-paced, and there is a wonderful scene between Timon and Apemantus toward the end of the play. Michael Navarra is the Athenian Captain, Alcibiades. He plays the handsome soldier with just the right touch of ambiguity. He agrees to attack Athens, but we're not sure where he really stands.
As usual, David Mendelsohn is watchable in a variety of roles. He opens the show as the Poet, and turns in a comic performance reminiscent of Henry Winkler's Fonz. If he occasionally goes too far with his shtick, who can blame him? The audience is just eating it up. His interchanges with the Painter (Tim P. Hart) set the contemporary tone for the rest of the play. Peter Eberhardt brings a good voice and stage presence to bear on several roles, and is noteworthy as one of the pompous Athenian senators. Sally Clawson and Rebecca Lorentz make their marks as erotic dancers and in a variety of other roles. As a nod to contemporary culture, director Kelleher replaces many onstage dialogues with all-too-familiar cell-phone conversations.
Set design by John Rousseau is simple but effective. The glittering opening set smacks of opulence and wealth. Rousseau makes good use of old refrigerator packing for the homeless encampment. Jocelyn Leiser-Herndon is the costume designer, and provides a nice variety of costumes from tuxedos to power suits to Timon's final rags. Michael Palumbo was responsible for the lighting design. In the intimate setting of the Circle Theatre, the impact of this production is almost mesmerizing. It is well worth the trip to Carmel.
PacRep Theatre has an active season lined up. The Woman in Black (A Ghost Story) opens at the Golden Bough Theatre on Sept. 7. Measure for Measure opens at the Forest Theater on Sept. 29. PacRep is truly a repertory theater, and one of the joys of their performances is seeing one's favorite actors in different productions and roles.
Timon of Athens, a PacRep Theatre production, plays through Oct. 8 at the Golden Bough Playhouse, on Monte Verde between Eighth and Ninth streets, Carmel. For tickets call 831.622.0700; www.ticketguys.com.
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