ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, Reverie Theatre Company, at the Viaduct Theater. In Shakespeare's ugliest love story, Helen tricks the worthless Bertram, a no-account count ordered by his king to marry, into impregnating her. More improbably, Bertram is won over by Helen's sexual shenanigans. As the play's title suggests, Helen's end justifies her means, which include a ludicrous rumor of her death. But the ultimate lesson, whatever the ending, is that neither mate deserves the other. Helen is as trapped by her infatuation as Bertram is by his blindness to her worth. And pretending to be your own rival is hardly a wife's duty to her faithless husband.
To make this fractured fairy tale work, the actors must embrace both Bertram's fear of being trapped and Helen's fear of losing the love of her life. Unfortunately Chris Pomeroy's glacial staging--too long at nearly three hours--takes its cue from the paltry comic relief provided by braggart churl Paroles and the remarkably unfunny clown Lavatch. Though Eva Wilhelm's Helen is occasionally affecting, she's burdened with an overly emphatic delivery and semaphore gestures. Alfred C. Kemp's Bertram fares better: he seems genuinely preoccupied by war instead of love. But the little lost chances take their toll: Scott Hamilton Westerman leaves out the lovable side of roguish Paroles, and Steve Ratcliff plays the dying king without ever seeming sick.