Shakespeare’s indomitable heroine Helena (a feisty and well-spoken Karen Sternberg) has more to overcome than a beau who doesn’t love her in John Hurley’s alfresco staging of All’s Well That Ends Well. She must compete with sirens and boom boxes, and the gimmickry of Hurley’s staging in a craggy knoll in Central Park.
This All’s Well begins with a brave choice: Helena hurls water balloons at Bertram (Aaron Michael Zook), the aforementioned beau and a count well above her station. But we never see playfulness again, particularly after Helena cures the deathly sick King of France (an excellent Robert Grossman), who then allows her to pick a courtier to marry. When Helena selects Bertram, he flees to Italy rather than endure this enforced marriage. Helena follows, and finally wins his love, with the help of an Italian woman Bertram has fallen for (a fine Alisha Spielmann). This tricky romance is diminished further by painful buffoonery from Bertram’s servant— Christopher Illing plays him like a refugee from Pirates of the Caribbean-—and by wooden performances in many secondary roles (particularly from Mary Round as Bertram’s mother). That Helena (and Sternberg) triumph at all is the true surprise of this ill-conceived production.