Do not miss the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company‘s production of All’s Well That End’s Well, free on the Common through August 14. Last year’s production of Othello with Seth Gilliam and James Waterston (reviewed here) was spectacular and raised expectations for this year’s performance. Steven Maler (who also directed Othello) has pulled off yet another winning production with one of Shakespeare’s more challenging plays.
The cast includes familiar faces for Boston theatergoers. The tireless Karen MacDonald—a founding member of American Repertory Theatre and seen this year in The Huntington’s Bus Stop the Speakeasy’s The Drowsy Chaperone among other productions—is the Countess. Other ART alumni in the production include Remo Airaldi (Lafew) and Will LeBow (the King of France). A number of other members of the cast have performed in earlier CSC productions in Boston. Kersti Bryan‘s Helena is pitch perfect in navigating the polarities of Helena as pathetic on one side and a manipulative wench on the other. Yes, the case could be made that she is both—this isn’t a pleasing portrait of marriage after all—but Bryan gives Helena a Meryl Streepian grace in the face of less-than-becoming circumstances. Nick Dillenburg‘s Bertram is successful at bringing us along as his character’s moves to a more mature and conscious place.
Jon Savage‘s set is simple but ingenious. A lazy Susan circular wedge brings sets and characters off and on with an effortlessness that is in keeping with the minimal staging. The costumes work well with the overall aesthetic.
There are some directors who “get” how to bring Shakespearian English into our current language idiom without the esoterics of footnotes and commentary that are often needed in a read through of the plays. It has something to do with phrasing and inflection. This was demonstrated for me when my daughter was 11 years old and we watched Kenneth Branagh‘s Much Ado About Nothing together. This was her first exposure to an entire Shakespeare play, but Branagh rendered the language so comprehensibly that she fell into its rhythms effortlessly and has been Shakespeare-enabled (and Shakespeare passionate) ever since.
Steven Maler has that gift too. Both Othello and All’s Well succeed in achieving a theatrical experience that anyone wandering onto the Common—Shakespeare conversant or not—would find accessible, compelling, funny, profound.
I’m going again this weekend and looking forward to a second helping.