All’s Well That Ends Well at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company ends up neatly with loose threads tidied away.
Heroine Helena is a moon-eyed maiden in love above her station. She’s also skillful, willful, driven and manipulative. These contradictions are so fetchingly etched and explicated by Kelly Mengelkoch (pictured) that sweet Helena deserves to end up with a better fate than the scruffy Bertram, credibly performed on opening night (script in hand) by stage manager Justin McCombs in a last-minute substitution. Actor that he is, McCombs’ subbing did minimal damage. (Ailing Christopher Guthrie will resume the role soon.)
The remarkable thing is how director Brian Isaac Phillips and his 17-member cast take a troublesome patchwork script full of dislikeable people and dubious motivations — the great Shakespearean scholar Harold Bloom calls it “rancid” — and transform it into a rich, more cohesive, more satisfying entertainment experience ... more than it has any right to be.
At Cincy Shakespeare through Nov. 15. Get show details and read Tom McElfresh's full review here.