The PEL Players are back, with more players than ever, doing an unrehearsed reading of William Shakespeare’s least popular play, co-written with Thomas Middleton in Shakespeare’s later years, probably around 1605.
The play is about money and cynicism, where a man gets to see where his friends go when his money runs out and let’s say doesn’t react well.
This is our largest cast ever, with the highly experienced Shakespearean actor Jay playing Timon, comedy legend Michael Ian Black as the cynic philosopher Apemantus, TV and film actor Michael Tow as the Athenian general Alcibiades (all grown up and away from the teachings and temptation of that gorgeous Socrates), and Sir Jonathan Bate of Oxford and Arizona State, the co-editor of the brand new, second edition of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare’s Complete Works, which was the impetus and source for this performance (he’ll be joining us for ep. 299 to discuss the play).
There are over 30 distinct speaking roles in the play, so the Michaels both also have small parts, as do the rest of us: returning stalwart (and let’s say assistant casting director for this production) Bill Youmans, theater actor Sarah Manton (Bill and Sarah play the main lords who take advantage of Timon’s parties, among other parts), the writer (and frequent Pretty Much Pop guest) Sarahlyn Bruck (who plays another lord, a messenger, and more).
Plus, the reading includes all four of us podcasters: Mark Linsenmayer (who directed and edited this thing, reads the stage directions, and plays the Poet, the Fool, and Cupid), Seth Paskin (who plays the Painter and Timon’s servant Flaminius), Wes Alwan (who plays the Merchant, Timon’s servant Servilius, and along with Sarahlyn plays an Athenian senator), and Dylan Casey (who plays the Jeweler and among other parts another, unnamed servant of Timon whom we’ve decided to call Snivilius).
The play is three hours long, so we decided to split it into the two halves identified by Jonathan Bate. This recording includes acts 1-3, while part two includes the remaining acts 4 and 5. Plus we do some chatting between some scenes, with reflections at the end of the whole production.
Why is the play unpopular? Well, the structure is pretty goofy, with some underdeveloped plot points and some that are stretched out to the point of redundancy. Still, it’s got some interesting ideas in it about how one’s philosophy might change with circumstance, how money corrodes (or replaces?) social relations, plus some reflections on generosity, friendship, justice, duty, the arts, and party pranks.
Picture by Solomon Grundy.