All is indeed well on the Boston Common, where the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s delightful production of “All’s Well That Ends Well” is bringing thousands together for free theater under the stars.
Long considered one of the Bard’s problem plays, the dark comedy proves to be no problem at all in 2011. Who doesn’t like a loathsome elitist lothario, a conniving woman hellbent on trapping a man into marrying her or a plethora of quirky sidekicks engaging in a seemingly endless string of buffoonish antics?
Sounds a bit like reality television, but it’s actually Shakespeare as it should be done. Director Steve Maler embraces the plot, works every humorous angle and never loses sight of the fact that this is, above all else, entertainment.
Much of the laughter is directly attributable to the antics of sidekicks Parolles (Fred Sullivan, Jr.) and La-vatch (Larry Coen). Coen’s Lavatch engages in a subtle give and take with the Countess (Karen MacDonald) while Sullivan’s Pa-rolles is the quintessential big, dumb guy hitting on all the girls and spewing lines like “France is a dog-hole.” His Keystone Cop-style chase in Act II is hilarious.
MacDonald delivers a stellar performance as the Countess, presiding over the vast audience with impeccable grace and aplomb. Her longtime colleague Will LeBow proves to be equally regal in his superb portrayal of the King of France. Kersti Bryan’s Helena has an almost “Fatal Attraction” quality that adds great dimension and fun to her supposed innocence while Nick Dillenburg is perfectly unlikable as Bertram, the guy who always gets the girl.