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"Shakespeare as it should be. OST is hammering out a new tradition...first rate entertainment."

-- Orlando Weekly

Plays and Events

21st Season (2009 - 2010)

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The Big Bang All's Well That Ends Well
Yankee Tavern Shotgun
If You Give a Cat a Cupcake Schoolhouse Rock Live!
Every Christmas Story Ever Told PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays

September 16 - October 11, 2009

Book by Jed Feuer, Music and Lyrics by Boyd Graham

Philip Nolen and T. Robert Pigott star in...
"The most expensive Broadway musical ever written!"

In a borrowed Park Avenue apartment two wannabe producers try to line up backers for The Big Bang, the most lavish Broadway musical ever written. With a proposed budget of $83 million this show will depict the entire history of the world. Will Broadway ever be the same?

Comedy - Ages 12 & Up

The Big Bang

Theater review: "The Big Bang"
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

The funniest moment in The Big Bang, the very funny musical comedy at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, may come in the first few moments. On a set that represents an elegant New York living room, actors Philip Nolen and T. Robert Pigott are fighting, and you're not quite meant to hear.

Might I mention that Nolen is wearing white tie and tails, and Pigott is wearing a sports jacket and red high-top sneakers?

"This is formal for me," Pigott says, in a barely audible whisper.

"This is formal if you don't have a job," Nolen retorts.

Maybe it's scripted. But the best thing about The Big Bang -- directed with comic finesse by Jim Helsinger and performed by Nolen and Pigott with an awe-inspiring combination of creativity and stamina -- is that so much of it seems off the cuff. Pigott and Nolen don't decide on the spur of the moment to costume themselves in curtains or to create Egyptian headdresses by pulling their undershirts over their heads. But it seems as if they do.

The Big Bang, by Jed Feuer and Boyd Graham, is one of those exhaustive small-cast comedies in which the writers have thrown together everything plus the kitchen sink: Think The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) transplanted to an Upper-East-Side penthouse. In this case the two guys are would-be producers, trying to raise money from you, the audience, for the most expensive Broadway show ever created, a show about all of history since the dawn of time.

"No expense has been spared!" one of them says -- except that they're trying to raise money in a borrowed apartment and are forced to fashion their own costumes from whatever is at hand.

So what's brilliant about The Big Bang is not so much the songs themselves as what Nolen and Pigott make of them (with ample help from Helsinger, accompanist John deHaas and an ace team of designers). Pigott plays the Virgin Mary in a silk dressing gown and a shower curtain; Nolen's Attila the Hun does a Vegas number with a colander on his head. In the antebellum South, Pigott's heroine wears a dress made mostly of umbrellas and Nolen can barely talk past a beard and mustache made of pillow stuffing.

The relentless pace can be frazzling, and the material isn't so phenomenal that two merely good actors could pull it off. Nolen and Pigott are much more than that. Each of them seems to have a bottomless bag of tricks as they create two batty alter-egos -- Pigott a guy who's bold, saucy and a little fey, Nolen an equally out-there but long-suffering comic straight man, so to speak (if you can have a comic straight man who wears a bunch of grapes on his head and plays the trumpet).

Those two characters are desperate (and their deliberately hackneyed choreography proves it), but the two actors are anything but. They may sweat off 10 pounds a night, but their ingenuity goes on and on, and by the final number -- a list of 40 years of history they didn't quite get to -- they've made you their prisoner. You may be glad The Big Bang is over, but you want to follow those two out into the parking lot. If you're lucky, they'll have grapes on their heads.

The Big Bang
Carl F. Gauze, INK 19

This just might be the funniest show ever performed in the Margeson Theatre. It's high concept humor that never looses sight of its low brow roots, combining slapstick, sight gags, and jokes you might need a PhD in history to decipher. Jed (Nolen) and Boyd (Piggott) hijacked the swank Park Avenue penthouse of Dr. and Mrs. Lipbaum to plug a big budget, SFX intense musical that covers the history of the universe form the Big Bang to Health Care. Since the real show will run twice as long as the Ring Cycle (Wagner or Tolkien, take your pick) The boys are just hitting the highlights tonight, singing and miming the show in hopes of getting the price of a B-2 bomber to stage their over-wrought and over-written dream. There's even room for product placement.

From the opening silent film introduction, complete with canapés and Hors D'oeuvres, to the rapid fire 20th century montage at the end, there was barely a moment the audience stopped laughing. The songs were untitled, but lyrics like "Free food and full frontal nudity" and "We're Jews and we're tired" nearly brought the house down. Mr. Pigott tuned himself into Nefertiti with a curtain and a waste basket, and later became an excellent southern bell with the same curtain and two open umbrellas. Like all good comedies, this one charges fearlessly into the land of political incorrectness, with Asian women and American Indians getting the jab as often as dead white guys. With the every-busy John DeHaas on the piano (I've seen him in 4 shows in the past month alone) the music always felt elegant, even if the lyrics drifted from silly to absurd. In an excellent display of conservation and recycling, just about every single prop on stage was put to unintended use from the telephone handset to a topiary tree. This show is absolutely delightful, and well deserved it standing ovation. Encore!

"Best Locally Produced Musical Comedy Ever!" Michael Wanzie, WANZeGRAM
Showtimes Sponsors
Margeson Theater

- Wed. & Thurs.: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat:. 8 p.m.

- Sun.: 2 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesdays at 2 p.m., September 23 & 30

- Post-show Talkback: Thursday, October 1

Darden Foundation
John & Rita Lowndes in honor of the 40th anniversary Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A.

Preview Video Image Gallery
Dramatis Personae
- Jed: Philip Nolen*
- Boyd: T. Robert Pigott*
- Music Director, Pianist: John B. deHaas
Production Team
- Director: Jim Helsinger
- Scenic Design:
Joseph Rusnock
- Lighting Design:
Mary Heffernan
- Costume Design:
Denise R. Warner
- Sound Design:
Bruce Bowes
- Stage Manager:
Stacy Renee Norwood*
- Production Assistants:
Andrea Herbert & E.J. Wilson
- Board Operator:
Zanna King
- Wardrobe Supervisor:
Phillip Giggey
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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October 14 - November 8, 2009

By Steven Dietz

"It is the Mother Of All Conspiracies: when an entire nation is led to believe something completely different than the thing they have seen for themselves!"

A condemned tavern in New York City is the setting for intrigue and conspiracy centering on the events of September 11, 2001. What is coincidence and what is fact?

Thriller - Ages 14 & Up
Strong Language

Yankee Tavern

Theater review: "Yankee Tavern"
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

Just about everyone falls for one conspiracy theory or another. In Yankee Tavern, Steven Dietz's rip-roaring, faster-than-a-locomotive flight of fancy, a guy named Ray believes the wedding industry is "secretly financed by an offshore consortium of big-box stores." And he believes that the fall of Communism may have been a plot cooked up by the Kremlin and Disney.

Ray may be a nut. Or maybe he's onto something, if you put any credence in Dietz's tale, which casts the events of Sept. 11 in a darker light than Americans have been led to believe. Yankee Tavern -- a new play receiving its third production after recent openings in South Florida and Denver -- may be a drama about belief and a lack thereof, whether it's belief in ghosts or trust in your loved ones or a conviction that secret forces brought down the Twin Towers. Or it may be a whopping good tale that's not really about anything more than most thrillers, which is to say it may be about nothing at all. You decide.

Dietz's setting is a rundown saloon in lower Manhattan, where life goes on but 9/11 has left the locals shaken. In Bert Scott's atmospheric set, it's a shabby place where blinding sunlight beats in whenever the door opens and the city's muffled bleats and rumbles go on just outside the door. (The excellent lighting is by Kevin Griffin and terrific sound by the late Bruce Bowes.)

There a grad student named Adam (Zack Robidas) runs the place he inherited from his father, and he dotes on the tall tales of his buddy Ray (Jim Ireland), the almost-vagrant (he calls himself an "itinerant homesteader") who was Adam's father's best friend.

But when a mysterious stranger enters the bar and professes to know something about 9/11 -- and when it seems as if Adam might know something too -- Ray's wild theories begin to seem anything but.

Director Anne Hering leads the audience on a wild ride, one made even more striking by the atmospheric stillness of the place it occurs (I loved the ominous moment when Tom Nowicki's Palmer first walks into the bar) and by the essential ordinariness of Robidas' Adam and of Katherine Skelton as Janet, his practical-minded fiancée.

Nowicki brings plenty of menace to Palmer, the quiet-spoken, almost generic guy at the end of the bar. And their conventionality sets off Ireland's riot of a performance as Jim, a crazed cross between Ratso Rizzo and Al Pacino, who is still so light on his feet that he himself could almost be a ghost.

Ireland is a force of nature, and his frenetic spiels are so hilarious that you may ignore a lurking suspicion that Yankee Tavern is nothing more than a tall tale or a sop to conspiracy theorists. Sept. 11 seems like too grave an event to be the stuff of mere entertainment -- and theater too nuanced to be simply a platform for politicizing. Maybe the best way to see Yankee Tavern is not to think too hard about it. In any case, you'll barely have time.

Showtimes Sponsors
Goldman Theater

- Wed. & Thurs.: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat:. 8 p.m.

- Sun.: 2 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesdays at 2 p.m., October 21 & 28 and November 4

- Post-show Talkback: Thursday, October 29

Darden Foundation
Foley & Lardner LLP
Larson Allen LLP

Preview Video Image Gallery
Dramatis Personae
- Ray: Jim Ireland*
- Palmer: Tom Nowicki*
- Adam: Zack Robidas*
- Janet: Katherine Skelton
Production Team
- Director: Anne Hering*
- Scenic Design: Bert Scott**
- Lighting Design: Kevin Griffin
- Costume Design: Denise R. Warner
- Sound Design: Bruce Bowes
- Stage Manager: George Hamrah*
- Assistant Stage Manager: Brittany Sullivan
- Audio Engineer: Colin Powers
- Light Board Operator: Mike Warden
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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October 22 - November 21, 2009

Based on the book by Laura Numeroff
Adapted by Bob Dolan

"Cat is where it's at!"

If you give a cat a cupcake, he'll ask for sprinkles. If you give him sprinkles, he'll spill on the floor. Cleanup makes him hot, so he'll get a bathing suit, and that's just the beginning! From the writer of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Cat is where it's at!

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake
Showtimes Sponsors
Margeson Theater

- Sat: 2 p.m.

- Sun: 4:30 p.m.

Bright House Networks
Orlando Sentinel

Dramatis Personae

- The Cat: Regan McLellan
- The Girl: Alea Figueroa
- The Dad: Elijiah Martinez
- The Men: Brendan Rogers
- The Women: Brit Cooper Robinson

Production Team
- Director: Bob Dolan
- Stage Managers: Andrea Herbert & E.J. Wilson
- Set Design: Robbin Watts
- Lighting Design: Mary Heffernan
- Sound Design: Britt Sandusky
- Costume Design: Mel Barger
- Wardrobe Supervisor: Phillip Giggey
- Wardrobe: Kelly Renko
- Sound Operator: Zanna King
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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December 2 - 27, 2009

By Michael Carleton, John Alvarez and Jim Fitzgerald


Every Christmas story ever told -- yes, all of them -- in 90 minutes! Three men and a "reingoat" tell tales of Christmas from around the world. Back by popular demand!

Comedy - Ages 9 & Up

Every Christmas Story Ever Told

Jiggle all the way

There was only one Christian family in the Jewish neighborhood in which I grew up, so my memories of this holiday begin and end with candy canes at the Ansons', two doors down. I was thankful that Christmas coincided with a long school vacation, but otherwise, I never had an emotional attachment to the day itself or what it represented theologically.

Of course, I did imbibe all the Christmas specials on TV and always felt that the season's songs were snappy and singable. Years later, as a well-paid department store Santa Claus, I began to appreciate the day's crass commercial aspects, and finally, after marrying into a non-Jewish family, I went the whole nine yards -- presents, trees, stockings by the fireplace, etc.

Happily, the production of Every Christmas Story Ever Told at Orlando Shakespeare Theater caters to nonbelievers and longtime revelers alike, presenting a look both sarcastically skewed and affectionate at the special celebration that holds such a singular place on our national calendar.

Under the direction of Jim Helsinger, three of the company's stalwarts -- Paul Kiernan, Mark Lainer and Timothy Williams -- hold court regaling us with truncated and prodigiously silly versions of tried-and-true Christmas tales, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Nutcracker Suite, Frosty the Snowman, O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi and Gustav the Green-nosed Reingoat(!?), among others.

There are side trips to NYC to see the Rockettes and the parade, and educational highlights include the history of fruitcake plus strange Christmas customs in countries around the globe. Fortunately, the loosey-goosiness of Michael Carleton, John Alvarez and Jim Fitzgerald's script allows for a good dose of satirical ad-libbing. Snide remarks about current events -- holiday-related or otherwise -- pepper the proceedings throughout.

The highlight of the evening is the extremely amusing conflation of two of our culture's best-loved Christmas narratives -- Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. Watching comedic actor Williams ricochet between the characters of Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey, with Lainer playing both the angel Clarence and the Ghost of Christmas something-or-other is one of this -- or, for that matter, any -- season's great comic gifts.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told - In 90 Minutes or Less

Allow me to introduce you to the funniest Christmas show ever! When you first enter the theater, you could not possibly imagine the "falling-out-of-my-seat-laughing show" that you -- and your family -- are about to see. The greatest Christmas gift of this season is a set of tickets to Every Christmas Story Ever Told opening at the Orlando Shakespeare Festival on December 2 and running through December 27.

The play begins with an actor sitting in the middle of the stage, seriously prepared to take on the lead role of Scrooge in Charles Dickens' beloved classic A Christmas Carol, but the seriousness of his 'performance' is soon interrupted by two actors who begin an actor's mutiny. The 'mutineers' REFUSE to perform the "classic" for the umpteenth time, saying they only signed on to do it to get the insurance.

After some ingenious banter, the three actors decide to portray every holiday story and character they can remember. The play is hilarious, silly, energetic, inventive, and most importantly -- fun! And it is the perfect family-friendly holiday entertainment. The play miraculously brings together seasonal icons and traditions from beloved classics to pop culture -- teasing them mercilessly and at the same time, making us love them all the more. This is the most fun 90-minutes you will spend this entire Holiday Season.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told
Carl F. Gauze, INK 19

Marley was dead. Of course he's dead; everyone from Donald Duck to Frank H has been beating him over the head for decades. So when Ebenezer Scrooge (Williams) sets out to squeeze another season's blood out of this literary turnip, both the ghosts of Marley (Lainer) and Christmas Present (Kiernan) object and propose and alternate story arc -- combine every other story from Luke to Linus into one mind blowing feel good Spectacle-Spectacle of a show. They pull cardboard tube antlers and bubble pack oceans out of nooks and crannies, creating one of those rarest of holiday events -- two hours of solid laughs completely unencumbered by guilt or a need to go "awwww..."

There are too many sight gags and copyright-free rewrites to fairly report, but Lainer as "Gustav The Green Nosed Goat" and Tim Williams as the stammering George Bailey may be the two most striking performances. Not that there was any lack of comedy form Mr. Kiernan, he made a wonderful Chuck Barris on the Fruit, Nut and Dating Game, and read most of the dark and gruesome "Christmas Traditions From Around the Globe". The comedy in this show flows from multiple angles -- broad parodies of The Grinch and The Nut Cracker swirl around visuals of a wonderful one man "Macy's Float Gone Amuck," razor sharp "locals only" gags and even a Tiger Woods joke. Clearly the writing team of Carleton, et al. and director Helsinger were cutting and pasting into the wee hours to make this the freshest holiday anti-fruitcake they could.

Does Marley rise from the blacksmithy of the underworld and provide redemption to all us Scrooges? I think that was in there somewhere, but was laughing too hard to notice. If you absolutely, positively need to see every Christmas special ever made but can't afford cable this season, this is your ticket. But close your eyes during the Polar Express joke, not even this crackerjack team of crackpots could make that turkey funny.

Showtimes Sponsors
Margeson Theater

- Wed. & Thurs.: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat:. 8 p.m.

- Sun.: 2 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesdays at 2 p.m., December 16 & 23

- Post-show Talkback: Thursday, December 17

Darden Foundation
Massey Services Inc.
Holland & Knight
Carlton Fields
AT&T The Real Yellow Pages

Preview Video Image Gallery
Dramatis Personae

- Ebenezer Scrooge: Timothy Williams*
- Ghost of Jacob Marley: Mark Lainer*
- Ghost of Christmas Present: Paul Kiernan*

Production Team
- Director: Jim Helsinger*
- Scenic Design: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Design: Jason Tollefson
- Costume Design: Kristina Tollefson**
- Sound Design: Britt Sandusky
- Stage Manager: Stacy Renee Norwood*
- Assistant Stage Manager: Brittany Sullivan & E.J. Wilson
- Board Operators: Zanna King & Mike Warden
- Wardrobe Supervisor: Phillip Giggey
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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January 27 - March 13, 2010

By William Shakespeare

"To be, or not to be, that is the question..."

Shakespeare's great tragedy follows a young prince haunted by his murdered father's ghost and driven to the edge of madness. To be or not to be is the question.

Drama - Ages 12 & Up



"Fresher than last year's Jude Law-powered Broadway production..."

The Orlando Shakespeare Theater's "Hamlet" looks on paper like a standard-issue high-concept production, transplanted from ancient Denmark to Victorian England. But Richard Width and Bob Phillips, the director and set designer, respectively, have stirred in a cupful of spooky horror-show populism, pumping the stage full of mist and making eye-catching use of a strategically positioned trapdoor. One might almost be watching an unusually literate vampire flick aimed at a youthful audience, an impression reinforced by Avery Clark's flamboyantly physical performance of the title role. Mr. Clark is supported by a finely spoken cast--I especially liked Marni Penning as Ophelia, Steve Hendrickson as Polonius and Eric Zivot as Claudius--and by the sound design of Matthew Given, who has mashed up Brahms, Dvorak, Debussy and Arvo Pärt into a sumptuous sonic backdrop.

All this makes for one of the most theatrically potent "Hamlets" I've seen in a good many seasons, far fresher than last year's Jude Law-powered Broadway production and, I suspect, more accessible to boot. I brought along two friends who'd never seen "Hamlet" and knew nothing about the play beyond the barest of basics. Both found it exciting, absorbing and--most important--intelligible.

"A Hamlet sharp until the end."

Avery Clark's Hamlet slips in and out of the cloak of madness as if he's slipping on and off a mask. In Orlando Shakespeare Theater's newest production of Hamlet, there's little question that this Danish prince has every one of his marbles. Watch him with the windbag Polonius, and it's clear that Clark's Hamlet is monkeying with the oblivious old man. But watch him with his friend Horatio, and the mask is gone: This Hamlet may be gripped by fury, but he's as lucid a young man as ever walked Elsinore's halls.

That clarity is a hallmark of director Richard Width's production, which lays aside high concepts -- like the video monitors of Orlando Shakespeare's 2002 Hamlet -- for clear, unfettered speech. Width has set this staging at the end of the 19th century, when the world of the mind was expanding and belief in the otherworldly was at a peak. But despite the Victorian-era costumes, the production has a stripped-down look, and nothing gets in the way of the young prince and the wheels spinning in his mind.

And how those wheels do spin! When Clark's Hamlet first catches your eye, he's a mourner at a wedding, an unhappy young man who puts on the mask of civility for his mother's sake. When he sees that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are spying on him, he lashes out with anger and sarcasm. But there's something grounded about this Hamlet: Even as he's about to die, Clark finds both sanity and the remnants of the "antic disposition" that, in this Hamlet, make him so modern a man.

The sound of a discordant violin wafts through this production, which takes place in the gloom of a dark-walled castle (scenic design is by Bob Phillips, lighting by Bert Scott, sound by Matthew Given and costumes by Denise Warner). There it's no wonder that ghosts appear (and Johnny Lee Davenport's mighty ghost, rising as he does in clouds of mist, is a formidable sight). And there it's no surprise that men betray men, and that friends and enemies alike are trapped in deals they did not intend to make.

Laertes (Stafford Clark-Price), for example, is a loving brother and son who gets caught up in a murderous plot. Polonius (Steve Hendrickson) is a loyal courtier and Ophelia (Marni Penning) a robust, right-minded young woman, but both are out of their league. If Eric Zivot's Claudius and Anne Hering's Gertrude, both of them straightforward and clear, seem a bit overshadowed, it may be because of the power of Davenport in three key smaller roles -- as the ghost, the Player King and the gravedigger, whose grizzled common sense is abetted by Penning as his goofy apprentice.

If anything, it's that doubling of roles (or tripling, in Davenport's case and some others) that saps a bit of this Hamlet's strength: It's too clear in this small theater that the same actor who plays Guildenstern is also the priest, and that Clark-Price is also one of the Players.

But that's a quibble in as clear-eyed a production as this one -- a Hamlet that shows, above all else, how utterly normal people can lead themselves astray.

"...director Richard Width has crafted a supremely theatrical show stocked with energy and accessibility..."
- Seth Kubersky, ORLANDOWEEKLY

"'Hamlet,' as produced by the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, delivers an entertaining, moving and worthy production of this classic."
- Paul Castaneda, THELEDGER.COM
"This show opened with the absolute best 'Hamlet's Father's Ghost on the Parapet' I've seen."
-- Carl F. Gauze, INK 19
Showtimes Sponsors

Margeson Theater

- Wed. & Thurs.: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat:. 8 p.m.

- Sun.: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Jan. 27 and Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesdays at 2 p.m., February 17

- Post-show Talkback: Thursday, February 25

Darden Foundation
Harris, Harris, Bauerle, Sharma
Keating & Schlitt, P.A.
BlueCross BlueShield of Florida
Orlando County Arts & Cultural Affairs

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Dramatis Personae

- Francisco, a guard: Steve Hendrickson*
- Bernardo, a guard: Julian Elijah Martinez
- Marcellus, a guard: Brendan Rogers
- Horatio, a scholar from Wittenberg University: Walter Kmiec
- The Ghost of King Hamlet, the former King of Denmark: Johnny Lee Davenport*
- King Claudius, his brother and the present King: Eric Zivot*
- Queen Gertrude, widow of King Hamlet and wife of King Claudius: Anne Hering*
- Voltimand, a diplomat: Bob Dolan*
- Cornelia, his wife and fellow diplomat: Katherine Skelton
- Laertes, a young courtier and son to Polonius: Stafford Clark-Price*
- Polonius, chief advisor to the King: Steve Hendrickson*
- Ophelia, his daughter and Prince Hamlet's beloved: Marni Penning*
- Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark: Avery Clark*
- Osric, a flamboyant courtier: Brandon Roberts
- Reynaldo, a courtier: Grant Jordan
- Lady in Waiting: Brit Cooper Robinson
- Guildenstern, childhood friend of Prince Hamlet's: Michael Gill
- Rosencrantz, childhood friend of Prince Hamlet's: Regan McLellan
- The Player King, a wizened actor and mentor to Prince Hamlet: Johnny Lee Davenport*
- The Player Troupe: Alea Figueroa, Stafford Clark-Price*, Julian Elijah Martinez, Brendan Rogers & Grant Jordan
- Prince Fortinbras, the young Prince of Norway: Brendan Rogers
- A Captain, a member of the Norweyan army: Grant Jordan
- Fortinbras Soldiers: Grant Jordan, Brandon Roberts, Julian Elijah Martinez, Walter Kmiec
- A Gravedigger: Johnny Lee Davenport*
- The Gravedigger's Apprentice: Marni Penning*
- The Priest: Michael Gill
- The English Ambassador: Julian Elijah Martinez

Production Team
- Director: Richard Width
- Scenic Design: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Design: Bert Scott**
- Costume Design: Denise Warner
- Sound Design: Matthew Given
- Fight Choreography: Richard Width
- Fight Captain: Eric Zivot*
- Stage Manager: Stacy Renee Norwood*
- Assistant Stage Manager: George Hamrah*
- Production Assistants: Andrea Herbert, Brittany Sullivan, E.J. Wilson & Sophia Wise
- Board Operators: Zanna King &Mike Warden
- Wardrobe Supervisor: Phillip Giggey
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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April 2 - 11, 2010

By William Shakespeare

"I'll love her dearly, ever, ever dearly."

Shakespeare weaves elements of fairy and folk tales into a lively comedy about the painful nature of love, the folly of youth and the road to self-awareness. Rest assured, all will end well.

Comedy - Ages 9 & Up

All's Well That Ends Well


"...a seldom-performed comedy that comes across as much more accessible -- and a lot more fun -- than its reputation suggests."Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

When an intrepid young woman named Helena sets off on a daunting journey, nobody in the audience at Orlando Shakespeare Theater's All's Well That Ends Well can have any doubt who she's supposed to be.

That's because she's dressed in classic Disney convention (in a dirndl and an apron, with a kerchief on her head). She already has danced with a broom. And she's outfitted for her trip with a basket and a red, hooded cape.

It's fairy-tale time at Orlando Shakespeare, where director Jim Helsinger has taken a fanciful approach to All's Well That Ends Well, a seldom-performed comedy that comes across as much more accessible -- and a lot more fun -- than its reputation suggests. The funny thing is that all the fairy-tale references, as comical as they are, seem like icing on a cake that's pretty yummy all by itself.

Helsinger and associate director Thomas Ouellette deliver both the giddiness and the underlying darkness in Shakespeare's tale of a young woman who goes to great lengths to get a young man who doesn't deserve her until the end. And it's that young man, a count named Bertram, who has proved problematic to centuries of All's Well audiences. Helena, a servant to his mother, loves him madly, but Bertram scorns her. Only if you understand what actor Stafford Clark-Price makes abundantly clear -- that the callow Bertram has some growing up to do -- can you cheer on Helena's quest.

At Orlando Shakes, it helps that Helena is played by Marni Penning, who was Beatrice in last season's Much Ado About Nothing and Portia in The Merchant of Venice and is now also Ophelia in Hamlet. Penning is a wonderfully grounded actress, and if a character she plays wants to win a heartless young man, well, she probably knows what she's doing.

In fact, the joy that comes from this production comes from a raft of such vivid characters -- most as grounded as Penning's Helena, but a couple in way over their heads. Anne Hering makes a kind and worldly-wise countess, and Johnny Lee Davenport is just as likable as her friend, the wise old Lafeu. Steve Hendrickson brings both fire and glee to the King of France, while Avery Clark and Walter Kmiec make strong impressions in the smallish roles of two playful lords.

Brandon Roberts' Lavatche fills the role of the Shakespearean jester, all wit and wordplay. And Eric Zivot's Parolles is the Shakespearean comic villain -- this one as foolish and vainglorious as the Malvolio Zivot played in 2005, but with even more bows and ribbons than Malvolio could dream possible. (The whimsical costumes are by Kristina Tollefson.)

Helsinger and his crew have added plenty more laughs to a play that already rests on a couple of typically Shakespearean comic deceptions. I especially liked the delicious expectation of din every time Parolles makes an appearance, even before he himself points out that "every braggart shall be found an ass."

But it's the steadfast love and the courage of young Helena that puts her in league with some of Shakespeare's most stalwart heroines -- and that gives All's Well That Ends Well the depth and resonance to live on.

"...director, Jim Helsinger, playing at the top of his game...renders a delightful and surprisingly full-blooded version of the Bard's romantic fantasy..."

The director's challenge when mounting a Shakespearean comedy, especially an arcane and wordy one like All's Well That Ends Well, is to set up the scenes from start to finish, know how and where to ask for laughs, let the actors loose and trust that even if the audience cannot fathom all the archaic references and complex verse, they will still get the gist of the action. And even if it takes a little schtick once in a while to move things along, well, all's well that ends well.

Orlando Shakespeare Theater's artistic director, Jim Helsinger, playing at the top of his game, admirably delivers all these comic goods and more in the company's current production. He renders a delightful and surprisingly full-blooded version of the Bard's romantic fantasy -- a play that, in lesser hands, would have petered out long before its predictably joyous finale.

The plot of All's Well is all fantastical fairy tal