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'Timon' a Revealing Update of Bard's Tale

October 30, 1998|JANA J. MONJI

"Timon of Athens" is not considered one of Shakespeare's great tragedies. Scholars argue that it is unfinished--roughly sketched out, with irregular blank verse patterns and some plot inconsistencies.

Director Scott Rabinowitz transports Timon to a Hollywood-esque Athens, giving this seldom produced play a pointed yet sometimes heavy-handed update at the Sacred Fools Theatre.

Michael Louden is an attractive, charming Timon who begins the play as a godlike, slightly indulgent philanthropist. He is happy and unconcerned, seemingly surrounded by friends, partying with high-class prostitutes provided by policeman Alcibiades (J. Haran).

Nothing darkens his life except his sometime lover, an angry Apemantus (Jill Bennet), and the mild-mannered servant Flavius (Jon Hamm), who quivers as he worries over the increasing enormity of his spendthrift master's debt.

Timon soon discovers that when his wealth disappears, so do most of the beneficiaries of his generosity. When he again finds wealth--conveniently in Las Vegas, an option that Shakespeare didn't have--he remains embittered at the shallowness of his fellow men.

In this version, philosopher Apemantus is transformed into a snarling black-clad woman with eyelids heavily blackened with eye shadow and an even darker attitude. But the exact nature of the mutual attraction between Apemantus and Timon is never adequately explained in this staging.

Rabinowitz does make the nature of Timon's sudden windfall and his demise more explicit than the original text and it mostly works. Yet he underlines some passages needlessly with heavy spotlights or lengthy pauses.

Despite its faults, this production enlightens the text, alleviates some plot problems and features some fine performances, making it well worth seeing.

*

* "Timon of Athens," Sacred Fools Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope Ave., Hollywood. (310) 281-8337. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; post-show Halloween party, Saturday. Dark Nov. 14. Ends Nov. 21. $10. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

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