You’re on a budget, but want to enjoy the finer things in life? You have two kids and a dog who need to get outside? You’re an adult last you checked and need some substance in your life? Or you need to find a unique place to take your date? Shakespeare by the Sea offers hilarious repartee in All’s Well That Ends Well in Southern California’s community parks for free.
Cylan Brown is silly and uproarious as Parolles, adlibbing when the opportunity arises. He sees the set and asks the spectators if there is a play, what play and what town they are in. He is told he is in Newport Beach and jests, “I don’t like the sound of that. Not one bit.” He sits and waits for the play to begin when Justin Joseph as Lavache the clown informs Parolles that they are in the play. So, there are two clowns who amuse the audience. In a separate scene, Joseph sings, getting the crowd to sing with him (music composed by Steve Garbade). Hilarity blows up as Parolles asks Helena, played by a sweet and pretty Angela Gulner, “Are you meditating on virginity?” Gulner plays the innocent and asks how a young woman protects her virginity. Brown replies with his sword erect, “Man, sitting down before you, will undermine you and blow you up.” Even the King of France is silly, played by Mick Simons as he needs help sitting down with his ailment. He rolls over or falls over on his help and occasionally slaps someone. The love interest, Bertram, played by Bryson Jones Allman, is carefree, but untrustworthy as he is not the least bit interested in Helena. Allman’s Bertram is charming and in the end he wins over the audience despite being a ladies' man and giving in so easily when caught in a trap. This Bertram and Helena with royal baby make a much more diverting couple than waiting for William and Kate to announce the name of their royal baby. [Editor's note: it's George.]
Bonita Canyon Park is a beautiful surrounding for All’s Well That Ends Well’s whimsical stage that is part carriage and part door to a castle. The periwinkle carriage and light purple door with painted gold scrolls pop with color in the middle of the park--the product of Aaron Jackon's strong design.
Bridget Garwood wears the most dramatic costume in an all-black gown in Queen Elizabeth I style from the sixteenth century. The high collar is see-through lined in diamond-like jewels and gold glitter. Lady Gaga tried to bring it back, but it didn’t take off. Puffy shoulders are adorned with faux pearls. Though only a commoner, Helena’s costume is pretty against the colorful stage as she comfortably moves in white petticoats, a rich-in-color rust linen skirt, white apron, beige top covered in a lace, bronze bodice. This is Claire Townsend’s third season as Costume Designer at SBTS.
It's always a crowd pleaser when the director has the actors go out into the audience. Director Patrick Vest uses the grassland as well. Actors can be heard far out agreeing or jeering to what is spoken on stage or sitting and talking with the audience. Vest also choreographs the fight scenes. He is seen in King John as the deceitful King John with SBTS this season—this is his first time directing a SBTS production.
Even though SBTS is free, nothing is truly free. The audience can give a donation, or purchase a program or a cup of coffee to sustain the traveling Shakespeare theatre. (Be generous, impress your date and leave some money in the box for the actors and then take photos with the cast because "All’s Well That Ends Well", like Parolles reminds us!)
From watching the actors set up and rehearse out of costume, feeling part of the show through engaging performers, seeing the actors walk back stage and meeting the cast after the show, Shakespeare by the Sea emits passion. There is a certain magic in the transparency, being in an open space that director Patrick Vest’s production of All’s Well That End’s Well utilizes, charming the audience.