This Week In Theater
by Rose Desena
I had the most enjoyable time at Theatricum Botanicum. The lovely outdoor theater nestled in the trees of Topanga Canyon provides the audience with a backdrop of stark natural darkness and the genteel light of a summer moon. A lovely picnic area allows a nice place to share a meal and drinks before the show. It’s everything I love about summer.
Their new production of “All’s Well That Ends Well” by William Shakespeare is a slightly perverse tale of class, struggle and love, with a little deception thrown in. Helena (Willow Geer) is a servant of the Countess of Rousillon (Earnestine Phillips). However, she is much loved and treated as a daughter. Bertram is the son of the Countess and Helena’s love interest. Like many in his class, the young Bertram is cocky and arrogant. Dear Helena puts her wit to the test and pulls off a stunning achievement by curing the ailing king and winning her desired love’s hand in marriage. Bertram is not very happy with the whole thing. He has plans of taking off to war with his band of buddies and confidantes. In his attempt to discourage her and make her miserable, he creates a test for Helena that she most certainly will be unable to pass. However she is very cunning and has a few surprises of her own in store for the smarty pants Bertram.
All’s Well That Ends Well is a lesser known play to audiences, but well discussed by professors and true followers. The play displays a major contradiction, showing women who have strength, honor and the ability to outwit yet at the same time have a terrible weakness that is as much of an issue today as it ever was: 450 years later, women still love jerks and still become victims to their indiscretions and desires. Fascinating really that Shakespeare ventured into this subject. Perhaps he saw himself in the young Bertram character. After all, he did leave his wife for the bright lights and big city life.
Alan Blumenfeld heads this delightful cast as the clown Lavatch. He is really fun to watch, as are Willow Geer and Earnestine Phillips. Ellen Geer and Christopher W. Jones (directors) made some very interesting directional choices using African-American actors for the aristocrats and Caucasians for the lower class, creating a sharp contrast between both groups.
The costumes are fantastic and I do love the way the entire stage is used as well as the wooded trails around the theater.
All’s Well That Ends Well is an amusing story and one that young audiences can relate to. For me the production was just too long. Some of the writing was repetitious and I found myself fighting to concentrate in the second half. The play is written in 5 acts, broken down with one intermission. This might be one reason it has not been done that often. Although this was not my favorite script, I am grateful to the Geers and their wonderful group for offering the theatergoers of LA a lovely place to experience this memorable and historical writing.
If you are a true fan of Shakespeare you might want to add this one to your bucket list. It is done well. There are other plays to choose from — the Botanicum offers a whole range of theater and activities through the summer months. Log on and find out more. www.theatricum.com
“All’s Well That Ends Well”
Written: by William Shakespeare
Directed: by Ellen Geer and Christopher W. Jones
Starring Alan Blumenfeld, Willow Geer, William Dennis Hunt, Max Lawrence, Mark Lewis, Nicole Pacent, Earnestine Phillips, Wayne Stribling, Jr., Debi Tinsley
Check site for days and times as they vary
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Topanga CA 90290
(310) 455-3723 or www.theatricum.com