Chicago Theatre Review
Working It All Out, Soprano Style
All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare – Stage Left Theatre
I could not think of a better way to spend William Shakespeare’s B-day then seeing Stage Left’s production of “All’s Well That Ends Well”. It was a delightful birthday indeed!
Re-imagined in the american mob scene of the 1950’s, this tale of family identity, loyalty, and (of course) mistaken identity was just the right amount of ChiCAHgo and tommy gun fun.
Deftly directed by Stage Left Ensemble member Drew Martin, this oft forgotten bard play moved quickly and entertainingly through the story of power and war. I liked the simple use of two tables and side panel treatments to make sure the audience knew what setting (city) the characters were inhabiting.
The story hinges on a young Helena as she is quickly orphaned and then adopted by the Countess of Rossillion. (Chicago standing in for this city) The story quickly moves to Paris (New YAWk) and even to Florence (MiYAMi) as Helena and Bertram’s story becomes intertwined.
So, as in many Shakespeare tales the young loves cause great distress among their families. Helena loves, then Bertram leaves. They reunite, she chooses him, then he rejects her. She plots and fools, he falls for the plot looking the fool; and finally he must reconcile his love for her.
Of course there is a lot more too it than that, with King’s consents and good buffoon’s betrayals, but all the characters move through the story with resonance and energy.
Melanie Derleth as Helena, does a lovely job moving through the story from damsel to dame. She keeps the audience enlightened and gives a sweet and sometimes whimsical portrayal of a woman obsessed with a callous count. Her love story counterpart, Luke Daigle, (Bertram) gave us his an admirable performance as the wishy washy target of her affection. I appreciate his youthful turn, but wanted more characterization of the misunderstood mob count. Indeed, it is a difficult role to gain any sympathy from the viewer.
The scarf ensconced liar, Parolles was a stand out for me. Jeremy Trager’s energy and characterization gave this part life and laughs. Well done. I also enjoyed Rich Logan’s rich take as the “mob king”. Although at first I was taken aback by the Christopher Walken style delivery. But whether intentional or not, it worked for me and I found it ultimately endearing.
The over the top Miami group of Widow (Kimberly Logan) and her daughter Diana (Heather Christler) were a second act tropical breeze of energy and just plain funny.
The stalwart gentlemen in the names of Lafew (Sandy Elias) and Lavatch (Sean Sinitski) gave great performances as the solid G-Men of the group. Moving in and out of the drama long enough to interject an opinion, but making hast whenever possible. They seemed at home and confident in their roles.
The feuding factions gave us some great accents and attitudes befitting of a good black and white mob mentality movie, or a more recent episode of the Sopranos. I really enjoyed many of the ensemble moments in the show. Nick Mikula, Madison Niederhauser and Matt Pierce a lords and soldiers, were especially captivating as the mischievous captors.
The set (Alan Donahue), simple and understandable, and the spot on costumes (Theresa Ham) gave this piece the precise time and place without overdoing it. The music design (Jeffrey Levin) cannot be overlooked, for so many of the songs set up the scenes so well and brought us to that familiar 50’s flair.
I love a great Shakespeare play, but I am not a snob. This version was enjoyable and fun, and isn’t that the point in celebrating someones Birthday? And just like that, “Bada Bing Bada Boom” they made it happen.
Reviewed by Lazlo Collins
Presented now through May 24, 2015 by Stage Left Theatre at Theater Wit. 1229 W. Belmont Ave in Chicago
Tickets can be purchased by calling 773-883-8830 or Call the Theater Wit box office.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting, www.theatreinchicago.com