If any troupe can make Shakespeare's most problematic play, Timon of Athens, less of a problem, it might be the National Theatre of London. The group is broadcasting a taped performance of the acclaimed Nicholas Hytner production across the United States. Simon Russell Beale, as Shakespeare's most misanthropic character, gives a ''characteristically terrific performance,'' crowed the Evening Standard. The tragedy is the Bard’s bleakest look at humanity, as Timon, generous to a fault when the play opens, spirals inexorably downward into penury and misery, living in a cave outside Athens and cursing all who try to comfort him. Whether Shakespeare left it unfinished, deliberately or otherwise, or it was a collaborative effort still in need of a rewrite is hotly debated by scholars. There's no proof that the play was ever staged during Shakespeare's lifetime, and contemporary performances are infrequent indeed, so here's a rare opportunity to experience this dark, inky drama. Sheathed under storm clouds, there are passages of immense power and biting ironic comedy: Timon's feast of rocks and water for his false friends is a particular nasty delight.
Sat., Nov. 17, 12:30 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 19, 7:15 p.m., 2012