BWW Reviews: 7 Towers Production of ALL'S WELL Brings Out Both Comedy and Drama
Depending on who you speak with, there are between three and six "problem plays" attributed to William Shakespeare, but almost all Shakespearian scholars consider All's Well That Ends Well as one of them. On the surface, the play about unrequited love is a comedy. No one dies, and as the title suggests, it ends well for all of the characters. Still, there are themes and motifs of war, and many characters come perilously close to death. The duality of the play is the primary reason why it's considered a tragicomedy and a problem play, but it's that duality that has drawn 7 Towers Theatre Company to it. Their production of All's Well That Ends Well masterfully brings out both the drama and comedy in the piece and is one of the most thoughtful Shakespeare productions to grace Austin in a long while.
Director Christina Lynn Gutierrez places the action in Europe during the first World War, a choice which fits well with the material and with our current fascination with the period, brought on by the success of Downton Abbey. Gutierrez also chooses to create a more intimate space within the Dougherty Arts Center. Rather than stage her production on the Dougherty's proscenium stage, she places the stage on the risers in the auditorium and places the audience on the stage and floor level. The tiered stage allows for visually interesting blocking, though the close proximity between the stage and audience does cause some occasional sightline issues, particularly for audience members not seated in the center section.
Gutierrez also has a clear gift for smart casting. Sara Cormier, in the lead role of Helena, is thoroughly likeable, despite the consistent poor decisions of her character (Stalking the guy who doesn't love you back is never a good idea. He's just not that into you). It's a joy to hear Cormier speak Shakespearian language, and the same could be said of Suzanne Balling who plays the Countess of Rousillon, Helena's guardian and mother to Bertram, the object of Helena's affection (Yes, Helena's basically in love with her step-brother, another poor decision). David J. Boss, who frequently turns out stellar performances, does so again here as Parolles. Once again, Boss gives a commanding performance. But of the entire cast, it's Sam Mercer who seems to have the most fun. As Lavatch, the Countess's clown, Mercer is hysterically funny and plays the role as a flamboyantly dressed, wonderfully perverted fop. While some of Mercer's mannerisms (such as his lustful sniffing of the Countess's chair after she leaves the room) could veer into overkill territory if a different actor were to attempt them, he's able to deliver gags without making them feel like shtick.
Running Time: 2 hours and 25 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, produced by 7 Towers Theatre Company, plays the Dougherty Arts Center (1110 Barton Springs Road) now thru August 3rd. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets are $10-$20. For tickets and information, please visit www.7towerstheatre.com