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Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s All’s Well That Ends Well

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Thousands attend Commonwealth Shakespeare Company performances on the Boston Common each summer. Photo courtesy of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

In what has become one of Boston’s most popular annual theater events, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company is again performing the Bard on Boston Common this summer. This year’s Shakespeare on the Common offering is a luminous production of the comedy All’s Well That Ends Well. It’s a great way to spend a summer evening, so grab a picnic basket and head to the Common.

Often referred to as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” All’s Well is the story of Helena, a young woman besotted with a count. Helena employs enormous intelligence, wit, and cunning in her pursuit—and ultimate winning—of the reluctant object of her affections. However, the play asks viewers to accept certain inconsistencies: chiefly, why would a woman as smart as Helena so relentlessly pursue the shallow, skirt-chasing Bertram?

In the hands of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, this All’s Well is a delight. The story has elements of tragedy as well as comedy, but at its heart is a fairy tale, one where love prevails and all does indeed end well.

The production’s success is due in large measure to the talented cast. Longtime Boston theatrical stalwarts like Will Lebow, as the King of France, and Karen MacDonald (CFA’72), as the Countess of Rossillion, appear alongside such promising young actors as Kersti Bryan, playing Helena, and Nick Dillenburg, playing Bertram. The superb lighting and costume design enhance the theatrical magic and David Remedios’ expert sound design guarantees that no matter where you’re seated, you can hear every word.

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company was created 16 years ago by founding artistic director Steven Maler, who ably directs this production. Dedicated to performing the Shakespeare canon free of charge, the company attracts one of Boston’s most culturally diverse audiences, drawing more than 100,000 patrons to the Common each summer. Noted for its commitment to educating Boston youth about Shakespeare, the CSC stages a number of neighborhood outreach initiatives, including a program that tours city parks, providing theatrical experiences for underserved neighborhood audiences. The company also runs a Summer Academy that provides a rigorous theatrical training program for aspiring actors.

To get a good seat, it’s best to arrive two to three hours before curtain time. Bring a picnic or buy food from any of the numerous food trucks on the Boston Common. A word to the wise: the production runs nearly three hours, so plan to bring your own lawn chair or rent one at the Common (cost $7). Your back will thank you.

The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s production of All’s Well That Ends Well runs through August 14 at the Boston Common’s Parkman Bandstand. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.; there are no Monday performances. Admission is free, although a donation of $10 is encouraged. Performances may be canceled in the event of bad weather. For cancellation announcements, check on Facebook or Twitter or call the weather hotline 617-426-0863 one to two hours before the performance. The Parkman Bandstand is accessible by public transportation. Take the MBTA Green Line to Park Street or the Orange Line to either the Chinatown or Downtown Crossing stops.

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.

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