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Timon Who? It's Shakespeare You've Probably Never Seen

One of the Bard's most challenging and least-performed plays is getting an imaginative staging in Madison.

You might know about “Hamlet,” Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet,” but if you really want to brush up on your Shakespeare, you have a chance to see one of the Bard’s least-performed plays.

That’s because the  is presenting “Timon of Athens” at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre in Madison for a run starting July 6 and continuing through July 24.

According to Brian B. Crowe, the director and adapter for this staging, the play is widely considered difficult to stage, partly because its two halves are very different in styles and tone, with the beginning being lighthearted and the end tragic. Another complicating factor is the drastic change the title character goes through.

As the play opens, he is a generous philanthropist mocked by Apemantus, who warns Timon that his so-called friends are using him for his money and would abandon him if he were to become broke. When that actually happens, Timon heads to the woods and discovers an opportunity to exact revenge upon the citizens of Athens.

Starring as Timon is Greg Jackson, a regular of Shakespeare Theatre’s stage.

“I was so glad to get him involved in this show,” Crowe said. “He is a tremendous clown, I think a lot of people know him for his clown work and that kind of lighter side of things.”

He added that Jackson also “brings a wonderful sense of humanity and a true heart and pathos and wonder to his work.”

According to Crowe, Jackson is also able to handle Timon’s sudden transformation.

“It’s an extreme and graphic change, to go from this Utopic, optimistic philanthropist to one of the most vitriol-spewing misanthropes certainly in Shakespeare’s canon and I think in most of literature,” he said.

Crowe also promises an imaginative telling of the tale, moving it from Ancient Greece and giving it a turn-of-the-century feel with elements of vaudeville and other theatrical styles. He and the designers have envisioned Athens as a beautiful but somewhat gaudy and tarnished music box.

“It’s fun and lively but at the same time it’s held together with smudges of glue and little bits of wire that are barely holding this little machine together,” he said. “And then you’ll see what happens as that machine unravels as the play proceeds.”

The cast also features Bruce Cromer as Apemantus, the cynical philosopher who mocks Timon; Brent Harris as Alcibiades, the banished general; and John Seidman as Timon’s loyal servant. Making his Shakespeare Theatre debut is Geoffrey Owens, best-known for his role as Elvin in “The Cosby Show;” he plays a poet.

Crowe said he wasn’t very familiar with the play when he worked on it during a student workshop for the Shakespeare Theatre in 2008.

“It was a piece that on first read, I wasn’t exceptionally excited about,” he said. “It’s got an interesting story, but it was actually when I was through working on the show that I really fell in love with this piece. It’s got such a wonderful group of eccentric characters, there is a great deal of humanity that comes through when you get it on its feet that I don’t think is as evident reading it on the page.”

Now, he said, “Timon” is one of his favorite Shakespeare plays, and one that resonates today as the United States deals with a long-struggling economy that many people blame on greed.

It’s been more than 30 years since the theater last presented the play, and Crowe said this is a great opportunity for Shakespeare fans and newbies.

“If people think they don’t like Shakespeare, then this is the one to see,” he said. That’s partly due to its 90-minute running length.

Typically, he said, the show would run about 2 hours and 15 minutes with an intermission. The brevity is due more to merging scenes than cuts. He also cited the play’s heart, liveliness and twists as reasons for Shakespeare laymen enjoying it.

And for Shakespeare lovers?

“’Timon of Athens’ is rarely produced, the last time we did it here was over 30 years ago and it could quite possibly be another 30 years before we do it again,” Crowe said. “It’s one of those very rare gems that when you find out it’s going on, you should take very opportunity to see it. This is one to see, and it’s so timely right now.”

“Timon of Athens” will be performed at F.M. Kirby Theatre on the campus of Drew University in Madison, July 6 through 24. For tickets and information, call 973-408-5600 or see ShakespeareNJ.org.

ON STAGE SCOOP

Audition Alert, “Cactus Flower:” Villagers Theatre will hold auditions for “Cactus Flower” on July 9, 2 to 4 p.m. and July 11, 7 to 9 p.m. Callbacks will be held by invitation only on July 25, 7 to 9 p.m. Auditions will be held at Villagers Theatre, 475 DeMott Lane in Somerset. Abe Burrows’ play is based on “Fleur de Cactus: by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy. All roles are open. Please bring a resume and head shot if available. Auditions will be cold readings from the script (although actors are urged to be as familiar as possible with the script) prior to the audition. For more information, go to Villagerstheatre.com.

Summer Wine Tasting at Growing Stage: The Growing Stage Board of Trustees is sponsoring a special wine tasting on June 15 at 6 p.m. at the theater located at 7 Ledgewood Ave. in Netcong. The cost is $50 per person. If you would like to attend, download an application here, print it out and mail it in. For information, call 973-347-4946.

Don’t Stifle Your Laughter During “T.V. Classics” Meathead: Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake is performing “T.V. Classics Live on Stage” through July 16. Relive the great comedy sketches of “The Carol Burnett Show” and hilarious scenes from “All in the Family” live on stage. Performances are Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15. Call the box office at 973-691-2100 for reservations and information. The theater’s website is PaxAmicus.com.

Relatively Speaking: The Chester Theatre Group is offering the musical “Grey Gardens” at the Black River Playhouse through July 24. The show is partly based on a documentary by Albert and David Maysels about an aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who became recluses, living in a mansion with stray animals. The theater is located at the corner of Grove Street and Maple Avenue in Chester. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For information, go to ChesterTheatreGroup.org or call 908-879-7304.

Merry Wanderers of the Night:  is presenting its annual outdoor show, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” through July 31. Performances are at the Greek amphitheater at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris Township. The theater promotes the 90-minute production as being perfect for children and families of all ages. For tickets and information, call 973-408-5600 or go to ShakespeareNJ.org.

Get Dancing: , the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the United Methodist Church present their second annual Music Without Borders free summer outdoor lunchtime concert series on the Morristown Green. The series runs every other Wednesday through Aug. 3. Concerts run from noon to 1:30 p.m.  Next up is Chalgiya on July 6. The trio plays music from the Balkans on classic instrumentation of clarinet, sax, accordion and traditional drums, sharing the spirit of village dances and the flavor of urban café music of Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. July 20 will feature a concert by Music From China, a chamber ensemble that performs repertoire from traditional and contemporary Chinese musical styles. Go to MayoArts.org for more information.

Know Your Creatures: Reptile time is coming to  in Morris Township when “Snakes, Scales & Turtle Tales” takes stage on July 7. Featuring lizards such as the bearded dragon and leopard gecko, a box turtle and a Burmese python, kids will learn about what these creatures eat, how they live and if they make good pets. Performances will begin at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Recommended for kids ages 3 to 10. Tickets cost $12. Go to MorrisMuseum.org for tickets and information.

Audition Alert, “Kids’ Cabaret:” Brundage Park Playhouse will hold auditions for its “Kids’ Cabaret 2011—Love is All You Need” on July 5 and 6 from 7 to 10 p.m. Callbacks are scheduled for July 8 at 7 p.m. Directors Nicole Cupo and Kristen Tynan seek a cast of performers from 10 to 19 years of age. To audition, prepare a 32-bar cut of a song that showcases your voice, preferably of the musical theater genre. A group dance audition will also be required. Resumes and head shots are always helpful but not mandatory. No appointments are necessary. Auditions will be held at the Brundage Park Playhouse on Carrell Road in Randolph. For information, call 973-989-7092 or go to BrundageParkPlayouse.org.

Ramblin’ All the Way to Morristown: Dickey Betts and Great Southern will play a concert at  on July 6, 8 p.m. A founding member of the Allman Brothers Band and a legendary guitar player, Betts co-wrote and sang the group’s biggest hit “Ramblin’ Man” and helped define Southern rock. Tickets cost $37 to $57. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Spanish Praise: Samuel Hernández will take stage at  for a July 9 concert starting at 8 p.m. The Christian Spanish singer will perform songs such as "Por Si No Hay Manaña,” that have earned him Latin Grammy and Latin Billboard nominations for Best Christian Album. Tickets cost $15 to $30. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Arabian Nights (and some matinees): Brundage Park Playhouse is staging “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” at its playhouse on Carrell Road in Randolph, starting July 8 and continuing through July 23. The show is based on the classic Disney film and is the Playhouse’s By Kids For Kids production for this summer. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There is an additional 8 p.m. performance on Thursday, July 14. For tickets and information, call 973-989-7092 or go to BrundageParkPlayouse.org.

Audition Alert, “Once Upon a Time:” Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake is hosting auditions for “Once Upon a Time” July 13 at 7 p.m. and July 16 at 1 p.m. The show consists of three musical fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen. Adult and teen performers are sought. Performance dates are Sept. 10 through 24. Pax Amicus Castle Theatre is located at 23 Lake Shore Road in Budd Lake. Call 973-691-2100 or go to PaxAmicus.com for more information.

If the Slipper Fits: Pax Amicus Castle Theatre in Budd Lake is presenting “Cinderella,” through July 23. Performances are scheduled for the following dates: July 12 and 14 at 10 a.m., July 20 through 22 at 10 a.m.; and July 23 at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $12. Pax Amicus Castle Theatre is located at 23 Lake Shore Road in Budd Lake. For information, call 973-691-2100 or go to PaxAmicus.com.

Caustic Comedy: Denis Leary will brings his opinionated comedy style to  on July 13 at 8 p.m. Leary’s official bio calls him a “five-time loser at the Academy Of Television Arts and Sciences’ annual Emmy Awards.” His nomination came for his work on “Rescue Me.” He’s also been nominated for a Golden Globe. He is the author of the book, “Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid.” Tickets cost $78 to $126. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Everybody Cut: Ridge Light Opera of New Jersey and the Bernards Township Department of Recreation are presenting “Footloose” at the outdoor amphitheater at Pleasant Valley Park on Valley Road, July 14 through 16 and 21 through 23 with performances at 8 p.m. Admission is free, donations are accepted. Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating. Call 908-204-3003 for information.

Audition Alert, Musicals at the Women’s Theater Company: The Women’s Theater Company will hold auditions for the musicals “Romance, Romance” and “The Last Five Years” at the Parsippany Playhouse on July 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Prepare a short song in the style of the musical you are auditioning for and a short monologue. Bring a picture and a resume, stapled together. Rehearsals will be during the day with some nights, 20 hours a week. “Romance, Romance” will be presented in September and October. “The Last Five Years” will be staged in March of 2012. The Playhouse is located at 1130 Knoll Road in Lake Hiawatha. E-mail info@womenstheater.org for an appointment.

Comedy Showcase: Dover Little Theatre will present a Comedy Showcase July 15 and 16. Tickets cost $15 for this fundraiser for the Dover Little Theatre Building Fund. Call the box office at 973-328-9202 for tickets.

Audition Alert, “All My Sons:” The Barn Theatre in Montville will hold auditions for Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” on July 17 and 18, 7 to 10 p.m. For information, call 973-334-9320 or go to BarnTheatre.org.

Audition Alert, “The Wars of the Roses: Henry VI, Part I:” The Shakespeare Initiative will hold auditions for its production of “The Wars of the Roses: Henry VI, Part I” at Brundage Park Playhouse in Randolph on July 18 and 20, 7 to 9 p.m. The play charts the origins of the bloody Wars of the Roses, and features the young Shakespeare’s portrayal of Joan of Arc. Auditioners are requested to prepare a Shakespearean monologue (it doesn’t have to be memorized). Since the production will be quite physical, a movement/stage combat section to the audition will also be conducted. Auditioners should bring a headshot/snapshot (if available) and a theatrical resume. Appointments are not required. Auditioners should also be familiar with Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” cycle. Performances are Sept. 30 through Oct. 9. Auditions will be held at the Brundage Park Playhouse, Carrell Road, Randolph. A proposed character breakdown can be found here. For more information, e-mail to director@theshakespeareinitiative.org.

An Adventure for the Kids: Crabgrass Puppet Theatre will present its adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Jaberwocky” at  on July 20 with performances scheduled for 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Aimed for kids ages 5 to 10, the story shares the tale of a boy who goes on a quest for the legendary creature, the Jabberwock. Crabgrass Puppet Theatre describes the staging as a “fabulous and funny adventure tale filled with stunning puppets and fantastical scenery.” Tickets cost $12. For tickets and information, call 973-971-3706 or go to MorrisMuseum.org.

Continuing the Outlaw Tradition: Travis Tritt will mix the sounds of Southern rock and honky tonk to  on July 21 for an 8 p.m. concert. Following influences like Waylon Jennings, Tritt’s hits include “Help Me Hold,” “Can I Trust You With My Heart” and “Foolish Pride.” Tickets cost $42-$87. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Get Your Tickets Early: Tickets for three September concerts at are on sale now. Kenny Wayne Shepherd will perform on Sept. 9, Yo La Tengo will take stage on Sept. 24 and Lindsey Buckingham will play a Sept. 29 concert. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. To purchase tickets, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Here’s a Headline, Jay Leno’s Coming to the Mayo Center: Tickets for Jay Leno’s Aug. 26 concert at the  are on sale now. Tickets cost $110 to $150. The Mayo Performing Arts Center is located at 100 South St. in Morristown. For tickets and information, call 973-539-8008 or go to MayoArts.org.

Got news for On Stage? E-mail Louis@Patch.com.

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