He loved her, sir, and loved her not . . .

All's Well That Ends Well

by William Shakespeare

directed by Darko Tresnjak

Theatre For A New Audience  (production closed)

Jeffrey Horowitz, Artistic Director


review by Louis Lopardi . . . March  2006

The TFANA production of All’s Well treated the play with more respect for its "inner child" of a parable play than most, while keeping at least some of the surface comedy in sight. It is after all a play about "doctoring" - of the spirit as well as perceptions. The production setting - the nervous yet princely time just before World War One - gave costume designer Linda Cho plenty of eclectic food for her wonderful musings.

Director Darko Tresnjak not only mastered the difficulty presented by an awkwardly wide but shallow stage, he turned it to his advantage - setting apposites presented in the text as visual apostrophe. There was a Peter–Brooksian physicality to the spare comedy, yet with a sincere understanding of just what was at stake emotionally at any given moment. Fitting, as this is after all a play of parables, in which honor is never taken for granted, courtiers equivocate by nature, and an elderly king - recovered from grave illness - is very much aware he may not have time to see his decrees in action.

George Morfogen was consummate as the King of France. He took the role right from the start. His Act I "doer’s deed" speech ("From lowest place when virtuous things proceed / The place is dignified by the doer's deed:) was delivered like the sonnet it in essence should be. You lived for the moments when he would again be on stage.

Kate Forbes (Helena) grabs you and doesn’t let go. There was real inner power in her latter-play speech "O strange men! / That can such sweet use make of what they hate..." Her delivery is not "in your face" but in your blood as she makes you believe in her cause of the moment. (Perhaps it was the shadowy side-lighting - but her face bore a startling resemblance to the pre-classical Greek kouroi; the seraphic smile clinched it.) She was brilliant, as in multi-faceted - catching the existing emotional light and amplifying it.

The arrival in Florence was a true coup - a vocal quintet, with guitars and a delightfully wicked scene change - yet another remarkable use of the deceptively simple set by David P. Gordon. (Note to self: see how the background pastiche of bare tree branches mirror in the negative the exaggerated veins in the faux marble walls; and on those walls, an occasional slight glow of burnished gold cast by a chandelier - thanks to lighting designer Rui Rita.) The "just enough" sound design was by Aural Fixation, with music arrangements by Michael Friedman.

In this production of loving details, Laurie Kennedy’s Countess of Rossillion immediately set the elevated yet somber tone for the play to come. Adam Stein’s Parolles was consistent and supportive - always listening. Jonathan Hammond played a superb and concise Dumaine the Elder. As well, many in the supporting cast remained in mind long after the performance: Myra Lucretia Taylor’s Widow of Florence for example; and the character work by William Connell and Mr. Hammond again as the Italian Soldiers. This was a cast very aware of facial imagery: Parolles’ sometimes deliberate blankness; the expressions on the female attendants in Paris; and unforgettably, Lucas Hall’s Bertram - personifying a quality of agelessness, as though ready and waiting for nature’s more permanent mark. Just another example of how much detail the production team and cast managed to cram into one show by this amazing company. It was a long evening, but the time flew by.