|April Fritz as Helena de Narbonne|
Los Angeles's Independent Shakespeare Company consistently mounts high quality theatre including their free productions: Shakespeare in Griffith Park in the summertime. ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL inaugurates the opening of their brand new digs just down the hall from the tiny theatre in Atwater where they staged shows for years.
What director Melissa Chalsma (who also plays the Countess de Roussilon) co-founder of ISC has managed to do very well is to make this play come to life. The new ISC space features comfortable chairs and a flexible arena with a functioning grid. Bosco Flannagan's lighting design illuminates a simple chess board: basically an empty space that Ms Chalsma's stage pictures fill beautifully.
Melissa Chalsma and Kalean Ung
PHOTO CREDIT: Grettel Cortes Photography
April Fritz as Helena, the love sick daughter of a recently deceased doctor appears, she bemoans the fact that though she is nuts about the countess's son, Bertram (Evan Lewis Smith), she will never be able to wed him because of the distance in their social situations. Catalyst for much of the story is the excellent Daniel Jimenez as Parolles whose chops on his 12 string guitar expand the story in Act II.
Clad in Rouxuan Li's funky more or less contemporary costumes and a casual approach that sometimes dissolves the fourth wall, Ms Chalsma's cast, doubling in some roles delivers the goods with perfection.
As LaVache, le Clown, Kalean Ung in Act I, is particularly adroit with eye rolls and timing that punctuates the narrative. In Act II, as the temptress, Diana, she becomes a beautiful courtesan who facilitates the demand by Bertram.. Oh wait. We have to go to the Court of the King of France (Rene Thornton, Jr.), allow that Helena, having followed Bertram there has learned enough about medicine to cure the King of an ongoing ailment. Cured and thankful, he then decrees that Helena may have her pick of any man in his kingdom! THEN.. she chooses Bertram. Bertram says he'll only confirm their marriage if she shows up with his ring on her finger and his child in her womb! Bertram heads to Italy to fight in a war!
THEN.. after some shenanaigans and schtick that involves finding out that Parolles will say and do anything to boost his own stock, we are treated to a wonderfully sensual scene often referred to as the "Bed Trick." At Helena's bidding, the lovely Diana lures Bertram into her boudoir and with the lights down low, Helena then exchanges places with Diana, lying with Bertram to fulfill the demands that he has made. It's a little complicated. My suggestion is to head to the ISC and see it for yourself!
All's well in the final scene as we gather in the court of the King of France and Helena presents her baby bump and Bertram's ring and as promised: All's Well That Ends Well!
Excellent performances by Kendell Byrd and Ata Farhadi keep the play moving. The language is never an issue, with an occasional contemporary reference that draws the audience further in.
I love the artwork representing the journal of Helena from the home of the countess to the King's court and then to Italy and back again. They are all beautifully presented in the lobby in a series of collages made by Helena (the artist is Janet Lê) to document her travels and travails. This one is highly recommended. Familarize your self with the plot and it'll be even more fun.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Melissa Chalsma
Independent Shakespeare Company
3191 Casitas Avenue #130
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Through April 22, 2018
Tickets and Information:
818 710 6306