All’s Nicely That Ends Well At the Stratford Festival
By good fortune I had the chance to see a production of Othello final winter on the Chicago Shakespeare Theater that was directed by Marti Maraden. I was a lot struck along with her intelligent, cohesive path that I used to be looking forward to seeing raglan shirt design more of her work in Stratford later within the yr. I was not disillusioned in All’s Well That End’s Nicely.
I should assume that each one’s Properly presents even more challenges for a director than Othello, as a result of the play itself has such severe inside problems that they will only be glossed over, by no means resolved. Moreover, while the story of Othello is acquainted to many theater-goers, All’s Well That Ends Effectively shouldn’t be well known, nor is its plot significantly memorable. With such a play, a director can not take with no consideration that the viewers will perceive something that is not clearly defined.
In key methods, the plot of All’s Properly That Ends Well merely strains one’s credulity. As the story begins, Bertram (Jeff Lillico), the one son of the widow Countess of Rossillion (Martha Henry), is leaving home, summoned to hitch the court of the King of France (Brian Dennehy), who’s dying. Among the tears shed at this parting are those of Helena (Daniela Vlaskalic), a reasonably and accomplished young girl who has been residing because the ward of the Countess because the latest loss of life of her father, an eminent physician.
Helena cries as a result of she has fallen hopelessly in love with Bertram — hopelessly, as a result of Bertram has no curiosity in her and since their different stations in life make a match inconceivable in any case. However why ought to she love Bertram?
At the outset, we be taught from Helena’s personal mouth (in a soliloquy) that the attraction is physical, and we’re confirmed in that assumption when, immediately afterward, she initiates a comic alternate with Bertram’s servant Parolles (Juan Chioran) concerning the deserves of virginity.
However as the play unfolds, Bertram proves to be contemptible and unmanly. Pressured by the king to marry Helena (who has healed the king with a prescription inherited from her father), Bertram insults Helena and then pretends to embrace the wedding whereas making secret plans to flee it. Later in the play, having fled to Italy as a soldier to keep away from sleeping with his bride, he seeks to seduce Diana (Leah Oster) a respectable younger virgin of Florence, then, to save his personal pores and skin, defames her as a whore.
As an audience, we discover Bertram thoroughly detestable. Yet knowing all of it, Helena never wavers in wanting him for a husband. Dwelling in the identical home with them, how could she have did not see his character? And seeing his flaws so shamefully uncovered to the world, how may she nonetheless need him?
Helena’s steadfastness in pursuit of Bertram is inexplicable. Equally laborious to imagine is that everyone within the play besides Bertram seems to know that his foppish buddy and follower Parolles is a braggart and a coward. Bertram may be a cad, but he hardly seems a idiot. Why does it take an elaborate practical joke on Parolles to persuade Bertram that he has an unworthy friend?
Yet Marti Maraden’s perfectly-paced manufacturing of All’s Well That Ends Nicely holds collectively beautifully despite the play’s improbabilities. The place the Bard touches on a theme all through the play, Maraden helps us draw the dots. For instance, Helena and Parolles introduce the themes of virginity and procreation early within the play; the clown Lavache (Tom Rooney) develops them in strangely profound comic speeches; and Diana brings them full circle in a late scene.
Most of all, this is a play about our common expertise of grief, loss, and resignation, climaxed by the Countess’s lament:
My heart is heavy, and mine age is weak;
Grief would have tears, and sorrow bids me converse.
(Act III, Scene 5). It would be easy for a director to waste vitality trying to make a lot of the weak storyline, on the expense of the play’s poetry. Not so here.
We cherished the hilarious (and virtually cruel) scene through which the blindfolded Parolles is unmasked as a liar and a fraud. However this present has various excellent performances. The tireless Ben Carlson (who played an energetic Hamlet later the identical day that we noticed All’s Well That Ends Effectively)introduced the most out of his supporting position as the first Lord Dumaine. Fiona Reid, as the Widow Capilet, and Michelle Fisk, as Mariana, were both delightful.
And, after all, the lovely and gracious Martha Henry, the veteran Stratford actress, is perfectly forged because the Countess of Rossillion. What I will remember longest about this present, nevertheless, is the multifaceted performance of Tom Rooney because the comedian philosopher Lavache.
Sadly, there are weak performances as nicely. Probably the most disappointing was that of Daniela Vlaskalic as Helena. She declaimed her traces in an unnatural, almost sing-music method, having failed to learn from Martha Henry the right way to undertaking her voice in a large theater with out sacrificing expression and meaning. Essentially the most jarring efficiency was that of Leah Oster, who inexplicably brought to All’s Properly That Ends Well the identical midwestern drawl that she apparently makes use of as Marian the Librarian within the Music Man, additionally a part of the Stratford Festival’s 2008 season. And i couldn’t assist feeling that Brian Dennehy, as the King of France, was saving his power for one thing else.
Based on the program notes, this production of All’s Effectively That Ends Nicely (in all probability written round 1602) is ready in 1889. As is normal with the deplorable observe of setting Shakespeare performs in numerous time intervals, this led to distracting incongruities.
I used to be ready to overlook the historic indisputable fact that, in 1889, it had been 100 years since there had been a French king. But I had more issue with Helena and her “holy pilgrimage.” Based on the text of the play (Act III, Scene 5), Helena has come to Florence in disguise, pretending to be a pilgrim to a saint’s shrine. (Her real function in Florence is to pursue her husband and receive her marital rights).
Students of European social historical past can correct me, however it’s my sense that the observe of undertaking lengthy pilgrimages on foot to religious shrines had lengthy since died out by 1889. And if Ms. Vlaskalic as Helena was presupposed to be carrying a “pilgrim” disguise in these scenes, I didn’t see it. Once again, the “fashionable” setting served only to muddle the plot.
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