- All's Well That Ends Wellby the Seattle Shakespeare Company
Director Victor Pappas set All's Well That Ends Wellfor Seattle Shakespeare Company in Renaissance Europe. The scene was a series of small rooms created stage left and right by several structures recalling both medieval cathedrals and royal palaces. Stage left were two Ionic columns supporting capitals and a crenelated frieze, suggesting a palace entrance; and behind this rectangular structure were two barrel vaults suggesting openings into a medieval cathedral. Stage right was a larger portal with a higher arch, and a bench used for intimate scenes such as Helena's with the Widow as she explained the "bed trick."
Michael Winters as the King entered in his creaky wheelchair looking like John Donne in his shroud, wearing a floor-length white gown and a white skull cap, with his face "chalked" for death. When he re-emerged healed by Helena's magic, he wore a richly textured, floor-length crimson gown and skull cap, and his crown sparkled. In his own floor-length, bright red cape and cap, Lafew resembled a Renaissance Doge. George Mount was a wonderfully motley Parolles. Armed with a long sword, wearing matching blue tunic and cap decorated with miniature gold crowns, his chest criss-crossed by wide red and blue sashes, and multiple, many-colored ribbons dangling from his entire torso—arms, legs, black boots, belt, red stockings, and cap—he pranced all over the stage and was utterly obnoxious with everyone. The Countess and Helena initially wore simple black gowns, emblematic of their enveloping grief, and the French soldiers sported red and blue doublets. Significantly, Bertram did not wear the French colors, but rather a doublet of brown and black, the same colors worn by Lavatch in his scenes with the Countess. Perhaps the drab colors suggested he was in mourning, but also that he visually did not "fit in" with his French compatriots. [End Page 440]
Conner Brady Nedderson was perfectly cast as Bertram. He was young, handsome, blessed with fine features and dark, curly hair; a desirable courtly gentleman for a passionate lady. In 1.1 Bertram was anxious to leave his mother, as if eager to shun maternal influence. In 2.3 Bertram and Parolles stood apart from their French colleagues as Helena considered them as potential husbands. When Helena crossed the stage to choose Bertram, he froze, then turned abruptly to Parolles, who just shrugged his shoulders. Bertram's recalcitrance elicited a raging response from Michael Winters as King. It was clearly his sovereign's "honor at the stake" and his threat of "power," not affection for Helena, that drove Bertram to his knee at "Pardon, my gracious lord; for I submit / My fancy to your eyes" (2.3.167-68). After Bertram's painfully disinterested "I take her hand" (176) and his and the King's exit, R. Hamilton Wright delivered Lafew's scornful dismissal of Parolles—"Methink'st thou art a general offense" (250ff)—with biting sarcasm that heralded Parolles's self-humiliation about his drum in act four and Bertram's psychologically necessary abandonment of him.
Equally significant was Pappas's staging of Bertram's parting from Helena at the end of 2.5. As she spoke her poignant lines about being unworthy of "the wealth [she] owe[s]" and declaring herself "a timorous thief" (79-82), Helena advanced to Bertram center stage. He retreated on "What would you have?" and Helena advanced again on "Faith, yes: Strangers and fools do sunder, and not kiss" (85-6). Bertram stopped...