All’s Well That Ends Well
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring Eric Zivot, Stafford Clark-Price, Marni Penning
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL
In a perfect romantic comedy, a young couple is kept apart by barley surmountable obstacles, yet unites at the end for one long waltz in the moonlight. But Mr. Shakespeare is less kind to cowardly Bertram (Clark-Price) and clever Helena (Penning). She’s a servant and he’s a young noble, and while a roll in the hay would suit him fine, she has bigger plans. His mother, Countess of Roussillon (Anne Herring) sends him off to the King of France (Steven Hendrickson) who is on his last legs. Bertram recommend Helena for a cure, her father was a notable physician who rarely killed his patients, and occasionally cured them. Helena mixes up some dry ice and lighting and puts the sparkle back in the King’s step, so he rewards her with her choice of grooms. Bertram is the lucky boy, but his class conciseness makes him flee to the wars after the ceremony but before the consummation. His servant Parolles (Zivot) egged him on, and during a truce Helena catches up to Bertram, tricks him into a pregnancy and some other paperwork, and when Parolles is disgraced and they all end up back with the king, there’s a look of true horror on Bertram’s face. He’s been snookered, sniggered and smoked out, and I suspect their married life will make Petruchio and Katherina’s look like Ozzie and Harriet.
I’ll grant that Bertram and Helena make a nice couple that you might see in Orlando Magazine, but they aren’t as engaging as the villains. Parolles got the good lines, and most of the good scenes. A flamboyant dresser and the sort of lovable scoundrel to which you should never lend cash, he blustered Bertram and lied to himself and even when he was down and out projected a boyish charm. The King won on the joke count – Hendrickson abandoned the stately rhythms of iambic pentameter and fell back on borscht belt timing to make jokes where even The Bard didn’t write them. The moral center of the show revolved around Johnny Lee Davenport as the dignified Lafue – he always expressed the correct amount of outrage, but then withdrew to the expedient rather than the bombastic. Finally, there’s everyone’s favorite court fool, Lavatche (Brendon Roberts). He pranced through the show in his patches and bi-colored hose and I kept hoping director Helsinger would give him a pie to throw.
While this story is rather long and relies heavily on reading letter to cover the exposition, the evening is enjoyable. The clever set uses some mysterious mechanism to switch the upper gallery windows from Paris to Roussillon, the cast sneak attacks the audience from behind the light booth, and Parolles’ off stage sound effects really punched up his entrances. I liked everybody except the loving couple, but it’s not the acting but the text. Helen’s a nice girl, but she deserves better than the philandering Bertram.
For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org