An unwilling lover, impending war, plots and intrigue – the Shakespeare Theatre has it all.
On the eve of World War I, the Countess of Rossillion (four-time Academy Award nominee Marsha Mason in her STC debut) sends her son, Bertram (Tony Roach), off to the courts of the King of France (the always fabulous Ted van Griethuysen), unaware that Helena (Miriam Silverman), the young ward she takes care of, is in love with him. Eager to take on the world as a young bachelor, Bertram is also unaware of her affections. The King of France is wasting away with a strange illness and all his doctors have been unable to cure him. Helena, the daughter of a physician, uses one of her late father’s concoctions to cure the King. As a reward he promises her the husband of her choice. So goes the premise of All’s Well That Ends Well, currently playing at the Shakespeare Theatre.
Helena, of course, chooses a reluctant Bertram, and he is forced to obey the king and marry her, but he flees immediately, vowing never to return until Helena obtains his family ring and conceives a child by him – two things he is sure will never happen. The rest of the play is, of course, taken up with Helena’s attempts to win her husband’s love.
“I was looking for a period that was modern enough so that war would actually mean something to us,” Artistic Director Michael Khan said of his choice to stage the play during the first World War. “One where you could see that women were educated and were on the cusp of a change in their social role.”
There were moments when the production felt a little dry, with less than inspired staging and many of the lines delivered as oration not conversation. However, the times when the characters were able to leap into the third dimension were well worth the wait. For example: Paxton Whitehead as Lafew, a lord and neighbor of the Countess with clever one-liners and witty repartee; Adam Green as Lavatch, a servant with an inflated sense of self and sauciness; Michael Bakkensen as Parolles, an absolute knave who both charms and infuriates; and Natalie Mitchell as Diana, a small town beauty who has won the heart of Bertram. These characters brought the scenes to life, providing energy and chemistry and humor.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Shakespeare Theatre.
Julie LaPorte is a freelance writer living outside Washington, D.C. For the past year she has served as a columnist for Washington Life Magazine – penning reviews for the Performing Arts and the Paint the Town columns. She also works as a political marketing copywriter for candidates in local, state and national campaigns as well as for Congressional franked mail.