Shakespeare’s romance that’s not quite a tragedy or comedy “All’s Well That Ends Well” opened this past weekend at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison. It is a clever production and another triumph for Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte and director Stephen Fried.
The play is performed by an ensemble of nine actors who switch identities as the play moves from Rossillion to Paris to Florence and back.
With the title “All’s Well That Ends Well” you might assume that love triumphs and ‘all live happlily ever after’, but in this intruiging tale we are not sure at the conclusion whether the love story actually ends well. In fact, since its first production in the 1600’s, the play’s ending has been a matter of considerable debate.
Set aside that question, the lead role of Helena, a young woman, the daughter of a lowly doctor who has been raised by a Countess is a star turn for Ellen Adair. Adair, who is making her Shakespeare Theatre debut, is marvelous as the young woman… not of noble birth who is in love with the all too noble son of the Countess.
The pivotal role of the Countess the matriarch – the Countess of Rossillion is played by Tamara Tunie. She actually has three different roles in the three different locations. (Ms. Tunie currently appears in the hit television series Law & Order: SVU as medical examiner Dr. Melinda Warner).
Clifton Duncan, is a handsome Bertram, the son of the Countess and Helena’s love interest….but he aspires to marry a woman of noble birth…not a doctor’s daughter (my how times have changed!).
Comedy relief in three different roles is provided with great gusto by John Ahlin. He plays the King of France, whose life is saved by young Helena, Lavatch – aide to the Countess, and a soldier.
Parolles, is played by Clark Carmichael who betrays all those closest to him.
Rounding out the cast are Jon Barker, Brian Cade, Robin Chadwick and Isabella Steele.
This production represents Director Stephen Fried’s return to The Shakespeare Theatre after directing The Comedy of Errors in the 2008 Season.
The considerable contributions of the Artistic Staff deserve special mention; set designer Bill Clarke, lighting designer Tony Galaska, costume designer Emily Pepper, and sound designer Karin Graybash. Denise Cardarelli is the production stage manager.
For tickets or more information, call the box office at 973-408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey performs at the Kirby Theatre on the campus of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.