Directed by Drew Martin
Produced by Stage Left Theatre
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Shakespeare’s problem play, All’s Well That Ends Well, unfolds as a tough assignment
If All’s Well That Ends Well isn’t tough enough to mount (especially with a not classically trained cast) then setting it in 1958-59 within a mob motif using a Bronx accent only adds to the challenges facing the cast. This 2 hour, 45 minute production contains a complex plot featuring a orphaned woman, Helena (Melanie Derleth) determined to get what she wants and she will do whatever it takes to get that. This problem play is a mixed bag of comedy, intrigue, and gender politics. After Helena cures the King’s (Rich Logan) ailment, he allows her to pick a husband from his entourage.
She picks Bertram (Luke Daigle) who’s rather fight wars and frequent whores than be married to Helena – who he dislikes. When Bertram fails to consummate their marriage, Helena, her mother Countess (Susie Griffin) with maneuvering by Lafew (Sandy Elias), Lavatch (Sean Sinitski) and Paroiles (Jeremy Trager) and a group of soldiers and mob figures are involved the complex adventures deal with gender dynamics, power plays asking who’s in charge, who’s on top, and what occurs when things go astray.
One of the main problems in this play is that almost all of the players are despicable. Helena and Bertram, the king and, especially, Parolles are folks we easily grow to hate. This ‘ends justifies the means’ sex-power relationship leaves us bewildered and unsatisfied.
But, by far, my major problem with Drew Martin’s production is how difficult it was for me to understand several key players. Besides several players speaking too fast and running their words together, often players would swallow or drop their volume and their tone thus making their speech difficult to understand. The use of Bronx (dee’s and dose’) accent on top of the a fore mention speech patterns hurt the production. Sharper enunciation and clear emphasis on being understandable would help. Several people complained that they couldn’t understand some of the dialogue thus making it difficult to grasp what and why things were happening. This production demands audience’s full attention.
Yet, Shakespeare patrons and those curious to see a rarely produced work may find this show worth seeing. Jeremy Trager is intensely hyper as the obnoxious Parolles. Melanie Derleth is effective as Helena while Luke Daigle, as Bertram is the manipulative rouge warrior. This 14 member cast works hard to make the play worthy. There are some fine moments among some of the baffling speeches. This uneven production is challenged by the show’s trying to blend the comic elements and the dramatic twists. The ending is problematic.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 23, 2015
For more info check the All’s Well That Ends Well page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www.stagelefttheatre.com, tickets $20 -$30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes with intermission, through May 24, 2015