Review: All’s Well That Ends Well (Dauntless City Theatre)

Chanakya Mukherjee and Liz Der in All's Well That Ends Well by Dahlia Katz Dauntless City Theatre presents All’s Well That Ends Well as a walk through Berczy Park

Dauntless City Theatre presented a dreamy, outdoor staging of William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well in Berczy Park, in Toronto’s fittingly historic St. Lawrence neighbourhood. Dauntless City’s adaptation was a treat for the eyes, heart and feet, and offered a beautifully queer re-imagining of the Bard’s famous play.

The play tells the story of Helena De Narbon, the recently orphaned daughter of a doctor once revered for his healing prowess. Helena is taken in as a ward by the prominent Countess Rousillon. The Countess’ husband, Count Rousillon, has also recently died, passing his title to their son, Bertram. Unbeknownst to Bertram, Helena has eyes only for him, and travels far and wide to secure his hand in marriage. That is, at least, until things take a turn for the queer, in this wonderfully refreshing adaptation.

The production takes place outdoors and parades throughout the park. The park is accessible, you can sit on the ground, grassy hills, or park benches, although you’ll want to be able to move with the travelling cast, so you don’t miss a beat. As the play takes place in an open, outdoor space, the natural sounds of the city can be heard — shouting passersby and revving engines come to mind. The cast has a great sense of humour regarding these interruptions, working around and over the lively background when needed.

The production makes excellent use of the physical space of the park, and is expertly directed by Scott Emerson Moyle and staged by Julia Beaulieu. I particularly enjoy having to walk between scenes set in France and Italy, as an ode to the distance between the Rousillon region, Paris, and Florence.

On the whole, the cast is terrific. Liz Der shines as an impassioned Helena, and Melanie Leon is captivating as the shrewd Diana. Eric Benson plays M. LaFeu with great elegance and a quick wit, and Christopher Mott plays the King of France with a commanding flair. Andrea Lyons is a comedic queen as Countess Rousillon, and Tallan Alexander is a sight to be seen as the Countess’ valet Lavatch, prone to hilarious bouts of brutal honesty.

My guest for the evening loved the costumes, particularly how playful, detailed, and decadent they felt. Lavatch’s purple lipstick and ribbon knee-highs, and the King’s floral mobility walker, cunningly swapped out for a floral crown, when his health recovered, gives the adaptation an added exuberance. Hats off to designers Stevie Baker and Jordi O’Dael for their wonderful work here.

Dauntless City’s staging of All’s Well That Ends Well is a show for all ages. The text has been given new life in this playful adaptation, and the cast is a joy to watch. Experience outdoor theatre under the moonlight or bask in a sunny matinee. Regardless, this show is great fun, and a recommended outing for all.

Details

    • All’s Well That Ends Well is playing until August 25, 2019 at Berczy Park (35 Wellington Street East)
    • Performances runs Fridays* and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, with weekend matinees at 1:00 pm (*No performance Friday August 9)
    • Tickets are PWYC
    • Audience Advisory: This is a site-specific, outdoor show that requires walking

Photo of Chanakya Mukherjee and Elizabeth Der by Dahlia Katz

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