ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (Alchemy Theatre, 133 Tecumseth). To April 13. 416-998-7503. Rating: NNN
If you’re like me, there’s a moment at the beginning of every Shakespeare play when you find yourself faced with a wall of language several centuries thick. But if the actors are experienced enough, they don’t just wrap their tongues around the lines but also riff off them in contemporary ways.
This is the case with Alchemy Theatre’s production of All’s Well That Ends Well. In it we meet the sweet and slightly starry-eyed Helena (Jennifer McNaughton), who sets off for Paris to cure a king and win the hand of Bertram (Michael Rode), the man of her dreams. The opening scenes feel stilted, but once Robert Rainville’s deliciously asinine Parolles struts onstage, teasing Helena with a flurry of sexual innuendo, the fun kicks in.
What’s interesting is the play’s feminist plot. Helena is a strong and somewhat unconventional female character, and pursuing a reluctant lover, especially one of a higher class, seems odd even today. By portraying her and the women who help her as level-headed realists – they’re as aware of the constraints of their gender as they are able to laugh at them – director Hume Baugh teases out one of the play’s main themes with humour.
Kat Lanteigne turns in a magnetic performance as the Countess Roussillon, a woman worried sick for the fate of her child. The set is minimal, but Carmen and Alex Amini’s costumes capture the bright energy of the piece.