the summer's heat, for a Shakespeare "double header" of two comedies,
"All's Well that Ends Well," and "As You Like It."
These two are not Shakespeare's best, or best known, comedies, yet the
APT company did the best we have seen with them, letting us appreciate
the best points as well as the foibles.
"All's Well" was costumed very nicely in a Regency style, which made the
virtuous Helena's (Ally Carey) determination to make a marriage with the
shallow Bertram (Matt Schwader), her childhood crush, more palatable,
given the "marriage at all costs" mores pushed onto young women at that
time, at least as we see in the novels of Austen and others. One
realizes that the plot is derived from the "Cupid and Psyche" tradition
wherein the woman overcomes great odds to win her love, but we have to
wonder how good a bargain Helena is ultimately getting, given not only
Bertram's crass refusal of at first, but also his attempts to equivocate
out of his supposed obligation to Diana (Susan Shunk) just before Helena
reclaims him. Methinks he has indeed spent too much time with Captain
Parolles, a distinct bad influence.
Much of the humor in the play comes from Parolles (James DeVita) and his
nemesis, Lord Lafew (John Pribyl). Parolles is in the long line of
braggart soldier roles, although his utter cowardice and willingness to
betray everyone he knows in order to save his own life makes him a
particularly flagrant specimen and a clear ancestor of George McDonald
Fraser's "Flashman." He is seen through by everyone except Bertram, who
values Parolles' companionship until he is exposed in no uncertain
terms. The wise Lafew in particular does not spare Parolles the edge of
"PAROLLES: My lord, you give me most egregious indignity.
LAFEW: Ay, with all my heart, and thou are worthy of it.
PAROLLES: I have not, my lord, deserved it.
LAFEW: Yes, good faith, every dram of it; and I will not bate thee a
All's Well that Ends Well, Act 2, Scene 3.
Like Falstaff and Flashman, Parolles also displays a certain
self-knowledge. After his disgrace, he says:
"If my heart were great, 'twould burst at this . . .
Simply the thing I am shall make me live."
Ibid., Act 4, Scene 3.
As You Like It seems to start out as a serious play, given the bitter
dispute between the protagonist, Orlando (Matt Schwader), aggrieved that
his elder brother has withheld his birthright, and the brother, Oliver
(Darragh Kennan), who admits that he hates Orlando and solicits his
death at the hands of the professional wrestler, Charles (Michael
Huftile). The depression ere setting and costumes aid this impression:
when we see the camp of the exiled Duke and his "merry men," it
resembles part hobo jungle and part Resistance encampment.
However, once the action moves into the Forest of Arden, the play
becomes a full out bucolic comedy, with the usurper's machinations only
a distant echo. This play has as many songs as any Shakespeare play, and
some are given a Woody Guthrie style of music that works well. Casting
of this play was both bold and effective. I wondered how they were going
to pass off Rosalind (Hillary Clemens) as a "man" given not only her
petite build but notably high voice: this was done by presenting her as
Phebe/Aliena's younger brother, a pre-voice breaking adolescent, which
allows a newsboy cap, baggy shirt, and bib overalls to be a reasonable
David Daniel, more often a leading man, was cast against type as the
jester, Touchstone, which gives him a bravura bit when threatening his
rival, the clodhopper William, with a hundred deaths, and which speech
places him squarely in a milieu that has seen and heard Hollywood
monsters, cowboys, and gangsters. Colleen Madden had fun with the role
of bumpkin girl Audrey, Touchstone's lust interest, and worked
wonderfully well with him in livening up Touchstone's "seven stages of
an argument" speech. James Ridge was one of the most believable actors
we have seen in the role of the melancholic philosopher Jacquays, and
his reading of the "seven ages of man" ("All the world's a stage--,")
was the best we have heard.
Shakespeare's denouement is pure contrivance, but the sheer pleasure the
cast puts into it lets us overlook the deus ex machina miraculous
conversion of the wicked Duke (and the scarcely less miraculous
redemption of Oliver) that resolves the banishment plot and allows the
All in all, this was definitely the funniest rendition of this play we
have seen and well worth the trip.
And it is worth noting, the magic of APT's setting still works:
beginning in a quiet evening, once "As You Like It" moved to the Forest
of Arden, a single frog began to sing in the undergrowth; then a chorus
of cicadas began; the local bats put in their appearance; and, a lone
and distant whip-poor-will joined in, the first time I have heard one
there in a decade. This is part of why we go.