This production is nearly perfect, with excellent performances from every member of the cast. I don’t remember when the American Shakespeare Center last performed this one, but everything about it seemed fresh to me, from the costumes, to the music, to the characterizations. It’s a so-called “problem play,” but it was extremely entertaining.
Helena, played by Tracie Thomason, the ward of Countess Rosillion, played by Allison Glenzer, is in love with the Countess’s son, Bertram, played by Dylan Paul. When Bertram goes off to the French Court to make a name for himself, Helena finds a reason to go, too. By curing the King of his “fistula,” she earns the right to choose a husband from among the nobles at Court. She picks Bertram. But he’s not happy about this because Helena, the daughter of a physician, is of a lower class.
This doesn’t say much for Bertram, who reveals himself to be a jerk in other ways. But Helena’s not through with him . . .
Paul and Thomason were terrific as Bertram and Helena, and it’s an interesting pairing because they also play Romeo and Juliet this season. In that play, he’s all over her. In this one, he’s just not that into her. It makes for a nice dynamic for those of us who’ve seen both productions.
In this play, John Harrell is wonderful as the King and Rene Thornton Jr. is very funny as Lafew, as is Greg Phelps as Lavatch the Fool.
I’ve now seen all three shows in the Summer Season, and they’re all fantastic. I can’t pick a favorite, so I’ll just have to see them all again.