All's Well That Ends Well just barely qualifies as a comedy. Yes, there are traditional comedic elements, including cheeky servants, crazy capers, and mistaken identities, but All's Well... is filled with dark moments too. Dealing with deeply flawed characters and their self-made problems, it falls into the category of Shakespeare's Problem Plays.
The problem, you see, is that Helena is in love with Bertram. Bertram feels that, as a minor noble, he is above marrying Helena, the daughter of a doctor. To win Bertram, Helena uses her father's medical knowledge to cure the ailing King, who then, in a display of kingly gratitude, forces Bertram to marry Helena. Bertram, being something of a jackass, runs off to a war in Florence in order to escape the marriage. The aforementioned crazy capers ensue, followed by a morally ambiguous ending.
What a delight it was to see these people, with their petty problems, brought to life, and it was equally delightful to see the play presented in Shakespeare's intended time and location. Caitlin McCleery's set was composed of stone archways that represented the King's 16th-century throne room just as well as they did a soldiers' camp in Florence. The costumes, by Lynn Marie Macy and Emily Rose Parman, were not only period-appropriate, but spectacular too. The cast was decked out in ball gowns, soldiers' uniforms, and gypsy ensembles, with a very interesting costume for the female jester who wore a motley gown (LaVache the Jester was played by a woman in this production).
Of course those costumes needed actors in them, and the cast was quite impressive, particularly leads Helena (Laura Standley) and Bertram (Dan Callaway). Addie Brownlee was given the unusual opportunity to play the cheeky jester, and looked fabulous in her jesterette outfit. Derek Devereaux also stood out as the boisterous coward Parolles.
No matter good the cast was, the true star of the show was Sabrina the Yorkshire Terrier. Yes, there was a dog in the show, and what a dog they chose! The scene-stealing little fuzzball was well-trained and behaved herself for the whole show. She even made all of her entrances on cue and stood on her lighting marks (something many humans can't do).
Lynn Marie Macy not only helped design those amazing costumes, but also directed the show. She was faithful to Shakespeare's intentions for the play, but she also made this production unique without tinkering too much. Macy's Florence was filled with Gypsy dancing girls (again decked out in terrific outfits). Reverse-gender casting was used for several roles, but the bawdy Madame LaVache seemed just as at home in the play as Shakespeare's male LaVache. The same was true for the Duke of Florence, who was comically played by a tiny actress (Colleen Piquette). Macy was even going somewhere with the dog, who's symbolism became apparent later in the play.
Despite the scene-stealing' terrier, this production was more than well, it's excellant.
(Also featuring Glen J. Beck, Craig A. Brown, Elizabeth Fountain, Michael Gnat, Paula Hoza, Duncan M. Rogers, Ellen Turkelson, and Marni Ann Whitehead.)
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Copyright 2004 Charles Battersby