The Independent Shakespeare Co. (ISC), which you may know already from the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Summer Festival, is opening the doors to its new and improved studio in Atwater Village with a production of Shakespeare’s ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, directed by Melissa Chalsma.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL tells the story of Helena, who is crazy in love with Bertram, the son of the Countess that she serves. When Bertram leaves to seek his fortune, she comes up with a way to marry him; when he still wants nothing to do with her, she figures out a plan to “change” his mind.
At ISC, Helena is played by April Fritz, who is quite compelling and has an actual glitter in her eyes. Although her costumes are simple, they’re quite becoming on her. Bertram is played by Evan Lewis Smith, who is a regular at ISC and consistently great to watch. Chalsma plays the Countess de Rousillon in perfect form and costumes. They are supported by another ten actors, with Kalean Ung and Daniel Jimenez adding a good measure of humor into the story. (About the costumes: If I had it my way, I would cut out the Dickies tag off the soldiers’ pants, because, even though small, they brought me back -too much- to reality every time I saw them.)
This is the first cast to enjoy the comforts that ISC’s new space brings along, such as a proper backstage, a raised platform, and good lighting. For this play the color palette is grey, with a checkered floor on the stage that has no props besides a chair, giving the actors lots of space to move about. Some of the music is played live by the talented Jimenez, which adds a nice touch to the performance.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL is a bit odd, in the sense that you’re not quite convinced that you are happy for the character, even though she gets her way. You feel like warning her that perhaps she shouldn’t push so hard, and that maybe “ending well” is too low a bar. But it’s Shakespeare’s story, and if there’s a company in LA that can perform Shakespeare the way it should be performed, and make it accessible, that’s ISC. I encourage you to attend and see this (not as often produced) play.
You can expect to enjoy two hours of performance (with an intermission), seating in comfortable new seats. The studio has a lobby and a lounge area where you can enjoy wine or coffee at decent prices. It’ll take some doing to find the studio on your first visit. The space is inside a converted radio factory, and you’ll have to walk into the building and follow the signs to the correct suite. It’s not difficult at all, but do give yourself a few minutes to find it.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL will perform Thursday to Sunday through April 22. The ISC Studio is located at 3191 Casitas Avenue, Suite 130, at the Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex (between Fletcher Drive and Glendale Blvd), in Atwater Village, Los Angeles 90039. Tickets start at $25, available at iscla.org and by calling (818) 710-6306. There is plenty of free parking.