Directed by Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy
Costumes by Stephanie Dunbar
Set Design by Chris Hejl
Lighting by Amy Lewis
Staged at the Dougherty Arts Center
Although it’s categorized as one of Shakespeare’s comedies, All’s Well calls into question a number of the genre’s conventions. The unconventional relationship at the play’s center destabilizes the idea of fairytale love and “happily ever after” from its first moments. In addition, a major character undergoes a standard comedic journey of self-discovery, but only after a disturbingly violent and malicious prank that leads to his near-total destruction. All of this happens against the backdrop of a war which the younger characters embrace as an opportunity for glory, but in which they accomplish only deceit and trickery. The challenge of staging All’s Well is thus to create a world in which all of this darkness can not only exist, but where it can it can act as a catalyst for transformation.
For 7 Towers, that world was the Europe of WWI–a world experiencing for the first time the horror of automated weapons, poison gas, and an unprecedented level of death and destruction. Still, nationalistic enthusiasm for “the war to end all wars” reigned supreme, especially early in the conflict. It was not uncommon to hear young men excited to fight where, as Shakespeare’s Bertram imagines, “noble fellows strike.” All’s Well is not an anti-war play. It is a story about realistically flawed characters making the best of an often cruel reality. For me, staging Shakespeare’s disturbing fairy tale amidst the world-altering circumstances of WWI is a reminder of how much war changes things–people, relationships, beliefs, and social standards. At its core, All’s Well is a play about flux. Just as the play’s characters continually discover new perspectives of themselves and their surroundings, our particular use of the Dougherty Arts Center space invites a re-examination of a familiar space, facilitating a very literal change of perspective.
As All’s Well demonstrates, when change it unexpected, it can be violent and painful. The power of the play, however, lies in the moments of grace which characters find in the midst of their transformations. I hope you enjoy the darkly beautiful world we’ve created, and find for yourselves those bright spots amidst the chaos.
All’s Well was funded and supported in part by the City of Austin through the Economic Development Department/Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.
PRESS AND REVEWS
“If there is one reason to see this show, it’s Sam Mercer as Lavach. Rocking back and forth on his heels, tracing the lapels of his ridiculously flamboyant red suit, he’s the greatest clown I’ve ever seen on a stage. Gutierrez wisely plays up the character’s bawdy aspect without muddying the waters with too much slapstick.”
“Executing another commanding performance is David J. Boss as Parolles. He is, well, the boss. The moment he takes the stage, the integrity of the entire cast is bumped up a notch or two. Although some scenes make us wince – as when he is taken a prisoner and his head covered with a burlap bag, recalling the execution videos of terrorists – comic relief is never too far behind in this mixed-genre work. Indeed, much tension is released and the audience explodes in nervous laughter when Robert Stevens’ soldier shouts “Wiener schnitzel!” in an absurd but excellent moment of German outrage.”
Central Texas Live Theatre
“Suzanne Balling as the Countess delivers her Shakespeare superbly. Balling has many lines in the early scenes of the play, and she recreates for us the magic of Shakespeare’s language, completely captivating the audience. Thereafter, we ride the waves of Elizabethan poetry through five acts.”
“David J. Boss’s portrayal of the courtier Parolles is exceptional. Parolles is a creature of pride, loyalty, and ambition, and he is one of the characters in the play who is changed profoundly before its final act. Boss inhabits his characters like few other actors, and he illuminates Parolles brilliantly. Travis Bedard as Lafew is an impressive courtier for any court, a gentleman with well-honed Shakespearean skills. It’s also a rare treat to see Bedard in spats. Credit goes to costume designer Stephanie Dunbar.”
Broadway World Austin
“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.”
“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.”