This is Willamette Shakespeare’s third season of doing outdoor Shakespeare in the Portland area. Last year I got to see their Midsummer Night’s Dream… twice. This year they tackled one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, All’s Well That Ends Well. There’s probably a reason this one is lesser known.
Even though the play itself has some serious flaws (in my opinion), Willamette Shakespeare did a great job. The WWII setting (the second time I’ve seen All’s Well done in this time period) fits crazy well with the play, what with the soldiers and wars going on in France and Italy. Helena’s Rosie-the-Riveter look was great. And uniforms are always good regardless. Anna Gettles did a stellar job with Helena, managing to make her somewhat sympathetic and likeable – no small feat with a character that is conniving and pushy and who will do anything to get her man. I didn’t feel like she was a scheming mastermind as much as someone who followed her love with puppy-dog-like affection and devotion.
Bertram (played by Kristopher Mahoney-Watson) is, of course, completely unworthy of such love. Kristopher could have gone even farther with the part, in my opinion. I didn’t always feel like he was 110% in the role. And yet, if he had gone all out, I’m not sure I would have believed Bertram’s change of heart at the end. So perhaps all’s well that ends well?
Sarah McGregor did a wonderful job as Diana, Bertram’s other love interest, but where she really shone was in her role as the King’s nurse. She may not have had any lines (or very few, I don’t remember), but her stage presence was hysterical.
Nathan Wright (Lavatch and other smaller parts) stole the scene every time he was on stage. His small gestures, facial expressions and the cheesy German accent he put on as the “Interpreter” made me laugh… and laugh… and laugh.
The play has issues – it ought to be rated PG-13 at least because of all its “adult content,” and for a comedy, it isn’t all that funny. But for all that Willamette Shakespeare made it quite watchable. I went this time thinking that maybe Shakespeare was being ironic with his title – after all, is all well that ends well? Should this be considered a happy ending? Are Helena and Bertram going to have a terrible life together? Does the ending somehow make all the deception and “infidelity” and scheming OK? This production gave me hope that perhaps, after a bumpy start, things would look up for the “happy” couple.
The show runs through August 21st. If you want to add this play to your list of “seen it and have a vague idea of what’s going on in it” plays, this is the way to do it. Check out Willamette Shakespeare’s web site willametteshakespeare.org for locations and times.