Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

All's Well That Ends Well

Also see Susan's reviews of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Glimpses of the Moon

Miriam Silverman, Ted van Griethuysen and Tony Roach
All's Well That Ends Well has always been considered problematic among the plays of William Shakespeare. While Michael Kahn's current production of the play at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington is well appointed enough, its best moments come from two old pros and one youthful scene-stealer rather than the difficult leading couple.

The program notes emphasize Shakespeare's themes of religious pilgrimage, chivalric quest, and trial by combat to present the play as an allegory of people achieving maturity so they can become true partners in life and love. Still, this is a comedy in which a woman chases a man who would rather go to war than spend time with her, finally capturing him through trickery and manipulation. Her pursuit is uncomfortably close to stalking.

Helena (Miriam Silverman), a doctor's daughter, worships Bertram (Tony Roach), the young Count of Rossillion, who thinks her common and beneath his notice. After restoring the health of the dying King of France (Ted van Griethuysen) using medical skills she learned from her late father, Helena asks the king to marry her to Bertram as her reward. He submits under duress, but immediately runs off to Florence with his foppish friend Parolles (Michael Bakkensen) to fight in a war. Is Helena defeated? Not in the least.

The strongest performances come from Van Griethuysen as a deeply humane and thoughtful king, affecting in his infirmity and magisterial in his restoration; Paxton Whitehead as a sharp-tongued French lord; and Bakkensen in the crowd-pleasing role of Bertram's unworthy companion. (His gaudy, worn-looking uniform is probably the best of Robert Perdziola's costume designs, and his elaborate coiffure deserves its own curtain call.) Silverman is impassioned and Roach is very young and callow, appropriate for their roles, but the fact remains that these roles are not easy to accept on their own terms.

Marsha Mason makes her Shakespeare Theatre debut as the Countess of Rossillion, mother of Bertram and loving friend of Helena. While her performance is capable enough, it seems too straightforward and middle-American to go with the more rarefied performers around her.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
All's Well That Ends Well
September 7th —October 24th
By William Shakespeare
Countess of Rossillion: Marsha Mason
Bertram, her son, Count of Rossillion: Tony Roach
Lafew, a lord: Paxton Whitehead
Helena: Miriam Silverman
Parolles: Michael Bakkensen
Lavatch: Adam Green
King of France: Ted van Griethuysen
First Elder Lord: Bev Appleton
Second Elder Lord: Conrad Feininger
Reynalda: Barbara Pinolini
Dumaine the Elder: Nick DePinto
Dumaine the Younger: Danny Yoerges
Duke of Florence: Conrad Feininger
Widow Capilet: Caitlin O'Connell
Diana, her daughter: Natalie Mitchell
Mariana: Barbara Pinolini
Interpreter: Daniel Flint
Soldiers, Townspeople, Servants: Kevin Hasser, Russell Jonas, Charity Pomeroy, John William Schiffbauer, Kristen Varvaris, Scott Woltz, Kevin Woods, and Members of the Company
Directed by Michael Kahn
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or

Photo: Scott Suchman