All's Well That Ends Well at The Shakespeare Theatre

There is a reason this show is not often produced. Many of the main characters are easily disliked and never redeem themselves. I can't even imagine why Helena even WANTS to be with Bertram. Let's be honest - that guy is a dick. When she chooses him according to the king's decree, he up and leaves the very night they get married to go to war. As always, Shakespeare throws in some mistaken identities, some personal items to show who people truly are, and some amusing secondary characters. With all its flaws, Michael Kahn managed to make seeing this show an enjoyable evening at the theatre.

The first thing I said to my friend when I left the theatre was, "That show was really British, don't you think?" and I say that in a very complimentary way. Unlike many of the other shows I've recently seen at Shakespeare, this one is subtle and make more use of the text and the talent than of their huge budget. The set is simple, elegant, striking - and portrays more than a couple of locations. Costumes enhance rather than hinder characters and personalities. It was a welcome change from many of the ostentatious and ill-thought-out conceits many Shakespeare companies are doing these days. Kahn allowed the show to shape the idea, not the other way around.

Even though I'm not a huge fan of Helena or Bertram, Miriam Silverman and Tony Roach play their respective parts admirably. Roach brings an arrogance and a douchiness to this character that is painful to watch and really works. Silverman, even though I can't understand why she wants a husband like that, brings a constitution and a force of will that I appreciate. My two favorite characters, however, were smaller roles, but still large personalities. Parolles is a friend of Bertram's, and Michael Bakkensen brings a cockiness to the role that isn't so over the top that you disbelieve his fall from grace near the end of the fifth act. I hope Bakkensen stays around, because he is really, really good. Lafew, a lord in the service of the King of France, has some excellent one-liners (or what would be considered a one-liner in Shakespearean England), especially towards Parolles. The pair of them had me laughing every time they were onstage!

Overall, I think this is a strong production of a show that's not often done. I recommend seeing it. 3.5 stars.

All's Well That Ends Well
by William Shakespeare
directed by Michael Kahn
running through October 30, 2010
at the Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th Street, NW
Wasington, DC 20004


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