Sunday, May 27, 2012
Timon of Athens
We saw Ian McDiarmid last night on stage, playing the title character in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens.
McDiarmid is most famous as the guy who plays the Emperor in Star Wars.
I can't say I cared much for the play, but McDiarmid's performance was very impressive. He was quite spry for a man of 67, and his vocal technique as an actor seemed to outmatch everyone else on stage. He seemed to move through a couple of octaves when speaking, without drawing attention to the changes in pitch. He projected his voice even when apparently speaking quietly and reflectively. And his pronunciation was crisp and distinct, articulating his consonants and vowels, again while seeming natural about it. Mind you, he was on stage with a lot of very experienced Chicago Shakespeareans, who have spent a lot of time on that same stage, so his superiority was actually a bit puzzling to me.
The play is unlike other Shakespeare plays, in various ways, including having an extremely simple story line. Shakespeare's plots are usually complicated. Current scholarly thinking has Shakespeare writing two thirds of the play, with Thomas Middleton writing the rest.
For some reason, this production recast two female prostitutes into one lascivious male soldier/prostitute. I didn't know this going in, but I suspected genders had been altered while watching the play. The dialog and relationships weren't making sense to me. So I researched it today.
Despite the players' acting chops,
gender switching often flops.