Theatre review: Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s All’s Well That Ends Well

Photo by Jackie Teeple, Two-Eight Photography
From left: RJ Brownfield (Dumaine), Brendan Bartunek (Parolles) and Ryanna Dunn (Clown) in Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s All’s Well That Ends Well

“If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it,” as Beyoncé sings, is a sentiment William Shakespeare might have appreciated, judging by his play All’s Well That Ends Well. Continuing at the Richard Goad Theatre through June 16, Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s (LBSC) production of this tragi-comedy focuses on all the single ladies humorously yet tenderly conspiring to make one married man do the right thing.

Engagingly directed by Brandon Alexander Cutts, the play turns on young Helena (Mya C. Lucas), a smart but mousy doctor’s daughter, hopelessly romantic yet astute. Despite her thick glasses and plain dress, Helena maneuvers her way into the generous King’s (Kevin McGrath) favor by curing his medical condition; he then not only raises her station but allows her to choose a husband from among his court’s nobility.

However, Helena’s unrequited love interest, Bertram (Jesse Seann Atkinson), is her opposite– privileged, arrogant and superficial. He would rather go off to war with his sidekick Parolles (Brendan Bartunek) than be with her and promptly does so, leaving France for Italy and soon chasing the ladies there.

But the ladies– particularly a Widow (Kate Ash) and her daughter Diana (Sarah Regli)– plot with Helena (who has coincidentally shown up in Italy as well, feigning to be dead) to trick Bertram into recognizing his own shallowness. Helena’s clever method involves two rings and some deft bait-and-switching. Will Bertram fall for it? Probably, because he’s a man. But will the ladies achieve their goal? That involves some intricate and humorous Shakespearian language, which is delightful in this play.

Jennipher Lewis as Bertram’s discerning mother, who supports the ladies’ efforts back in France, offers the most eloquent delivery of those lines. The other ladies hold their own, especially Regli as the passionately committed Diana, and Lucas, who is thoughtfully emotive as Helena.

Of the men, LBSC veteran Atkinson, who seems to excel in such roles, is perfectly cast as the smarmy Bertram. And Bartunek embodies the spry Parolles well, though he seems to run out of steam after his kidnapping by Dumaine (RJ Brownfield) and a Soldier (Ryanna Dunn).

In her role as the soldier and also as a Clown, Dunn is a breath of fresh air (threatening to become a tornado) in every scene she’s in. That physicality, also apparent in other scenes (such as Bertram fervidly wooing Diana), infuses the production with welcome energy. Other effective features include lighting that changes colors and focuses intimate scenes.

These directorial decisions mark some of the subtle differences Cutts has brought to LBSC’s productions since the untimely passing of artistic director Helen Borgers last November. In a fitting tribute to her perseverant spirit, the crew is working to rename the theatre after her. In the meantime, LBSC’s fresh take on All’s Well That Ends Well, interesting in light of the #MeToo movement, will remind you why Borgers’s vision of bringing Shakespeare to life not only matters now, but can be highly entertaining.

All’s Well That Ends Well continues at the Richard Goad Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Ave., through June 16, with shows Fridays at 8pm (except June 1), Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $22.50 ($12.50 for students). For tickets and information, call (562) 997-1494 or visit