You may think Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well is old (after all it was written in 1604) but The Bard was way ahead of his time in its subject matter. He tells the story of Helena, the orphan daughter of a doctor, who is willing to do just about anything to get the guy she wants. That may not sound so crazy for the modern woman… but in 1604!?
And certainly Helena does whatever she must to get Bertram, the spoiled Count who thinks he’s too good to marry a commoner. She does a “bed trick” on him, making him spend the night with her while he thinks he is with someone else, and therefore solidifying a relationship that at the end he must accept.
His decision is based purely on class prejudice, so we know it is silly anyway, right? Well, to give you even more food for thought, the production at the Theatricum cast actors of color as the aristocrats in the story, and Caucasian actors in all the commoner parts. Helena here is not only going for someone above her own position in life, but also starting a biracial relationship.
“This is a remarkable play that scholars and editors love to fuss about,” says co-director Ellen Geer. “Helena is a great female role model who crosses class lines to follow her heart. I hope that our production will add another layer to the fascinating class and gender struggles here, heightening the humanity within the play and forcing us all to re-examine our values – all while we laugh and cry with the characters onstage.”
Often Bertram’s final acceptance of his new, smarter-than-him, wife has been criticized as too fast a flip flop written by Shakespeare. Yet, at the Theatricum, actor Max Lawrence does a great job portraying a volatile spoiled young man who is influenced this and that way so easily that his final decision comes as no surprise. Willow Geer, of the Geer family that gives the Theatricum its name, takes the role of Helena.
Light, easy to understand, with a good mixture of humor and thought, and an excellent cast, this is a great show to catch this season at the Theatricum.
All’s Well That Ends Well will continue on selected dates through September 27. Check Theatricum.com for dates and tickets. (Tickets range $10 to $37.) The Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga CA 90290. The theater is gorgeous, outdoors, and it becomes chilly no matter how warm the day, so bring along a jacket or blanket. You can also bring a picnic and enjoy it on the grounds prior to the performance.