Tuesday, August 9, 2011

THEATER: ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL!

ALL'S WELL (It certainly is.)THAT ENDS WELL (It certainly does.) I'm referring to this summer's FREE offering on Boston Common by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company! Artistic Director Steve Maler has served up one of Shakespeare's most infrequently performed comedies, studded it with some of Boston's brightest theatrical talents, and set it shimmering under the night sky like a dark star!

It opens with a funeral and a whirling casket; characters cloaked in 19th century black, backs to the audience. It's an arresting opening tableau-- somewhere between Edward Gorey and Tim Burton. Then Karen MacDonald opens her mouth and begins to work her magic as the Countess of Rossillion mourning her dead husband; a few scenes later, she'll have us in stitches with a mere shift of an eyebrow and perfect comic timing.

Her son Bertram is the conundrum here. He's off to Paris to attend the ailing King of France (Wonderful Will LeBow). There, he rejects the love of a good woman--the lovely and talented young Helena. The conundrum? Bertram is a superficial cad who proceeds to lie, cheat, and slither his way through the rest of this play; he's one of Shakespeare's shadiest "heros." Why Helena pines for him is a mystery, and a hurdle this production doesn't completely scale. Much of the problem is the flat and awkwardly enunciated performance by Nick Dillenburg.

Nevertheless, what Shakespeare has to say about real value, and pretense vs. true worth is conveyed through many compelling performances, among them-- Kersti Bryan as the delicate yet vibrant Helena, the hilarious but never over the top Fred Sullivan, Jr. as the aptly named braggart Parolles, McCaela Donovan as the feisty and beautiful Diana, Remo Airaldi as the snippy old LaFew. The action flows easily between heartbreak and hilarity. Maler's direction invokes everything from the Keystone Cops to "The Bachelorette" to keep things moving, and never loses control of the tone; the time flies.

I loved this production of ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL-- and you will too, right through August 14. Did I mention-- it's FREE? It doesn't get better than this.


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