Monday, June 09, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well - Seattle Shakespeare

Seattle Shakespeare Company
All's Well That Ends Well
Tickets and Information
June 5 - 29, 2008

Seattle Shakespeare Company’s shows are always a joy, but what about when the subject matter, shall we say, sets most common sensibilities a bit on edge? What happens is that we see how skillfully Stephanie Shine directs her shows and how beautifully the actors with Seattle Shakes can pull off an incredibly difficult and problematic show.

All’s Well That Ends Well is a show about a young woman madly in love with a man above her rank who has no interest in her but is forced into a marriage with her. The rest of the show is Helena’s (Sarah Harlett) trials and tribulations attempting to win over Bertram (Connor Toms) and convince him to love not loath her. The problems arise in his betrayals and her never-ending and unconditional love for him. She never questions the reality of the situation long enough to see his very blatant colors. Similarly, he never takes one second to see anyone but himself. His selfishness is his downfall and, the rest you’ll have to see for yourselves.

Connor Toms and Sarah Harlett in All's Well That Ends Well. Photo by Chris Bennion 2008.

With this incredibly sticky plot, Director Stephanie Shine plows ahead as fearless as Helena herself. The timing and substance of each character and motion on stage is beautifully choreographed and conceived. Sarah Harlett as Helena does, as always, an incredible job with her role. Similarly, Connor Toms carries the chauvinistic Bertram with grace and power. Standing out in this show, however, is Paul Morgan Stetler as Parolles, the braggart fop who couldn’t show you the right end of a sword if it were in his side. His performance and transformation from idiot fop to idiot by trade is brilliant to say the least. Similarly, Trista Duval as Countess of Rossillion and Michael Patten as the King of France charge ahead in their work as champions and dominate their roles with true eloquence.

As with most Seattle Shakespeare shows and especially with Shine’s shows, music plays an integral role and reaches new heights in this show with Sean Patrick Taylor’s direction and performance on every instrument that the cast could fit on stage right. Though at times a bit awkward, the music mostly fit very well and flowed very nicely as background and transitions.

As a final note, Kurt Wall’s scenic design goes way beyond expectations. Not to say that the sets at Shakes are not usually good, but this show in particular excels in beauty and practicality.

Overall, it is a problematic script that is handled very tactfully and skillfully by all involved.

Review by Nigel Andrews

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