King Leontes of Sicilia (Brent Harris) suspects that his Queen, Hermione (Seana McKenna), and his best friend, Polixenes, King of Bohemia (Neil Maffin), are having an affair right under his nose. The evidence is scant, and as Harris plays him, Leontes seems merely to be having a very bad day; he's in a party mood and then becomes a paranoiac with throbbing temples. In his rage, he imprisons his pregnant wife, rejects his friend and instructs his valet to abandon the eventual baby in a wood. By that point in the production, I could empathize with Leontes' assessment of his evening as "entertainment my bosom likes not."
Director Henry Godinez, working with set designer Christopher Acebo, costumer Holly Poe Durbin and lighting designer Rita Pietraszek, gives the first act a veneer of steely privilege. The royal palace of Sicilia is all chrome, concrete and black-and-white tiles; it's like a frozen chess game in an Ingmar Bergman movie. (Acebo's insistence on 90-degree angles renders various parts of the set inaccessible to much of the house; a good third of the audience can't see the stage-left wall of the prison -- if it was, in fact, a prison.)
But the chill thaws considerably near the close of Act One with the entrance of Carmen Roman as Paulina, Hermione's lady-in-waiting. Her viperous tongue and buoyant personality animate what has been icy and remote. And when Pietraszek shines sharp blades of red light behind her as she coddles the infant before it is banished, they're like shots in Paulina's heart.
Act Two opens sixteen years later with Gary Neal Johnson playing Time, a witty narrator and bringer-up-to-dater, who is standing next to an amazing set piece -- a tower of clocks with their hands racing cuckoo around and around. The setting is now Bohemia, and the baby is a teenage Perdita (Sandra Delgado) with a crush on Polixenes' son, Florizel (Manu Narayan). Here, the play is flooded with color and bonhomie, giving its eventual return to Sicilia enough of an infectious lift to warrant the subtitle All's Well That Ends Well.
By that point, Carmen Roman hasn't been acting in a vacuum. There also is fine work from Phil Fiorini (especially in a hilarious scene in a sauna with Johnson and jailer Larry Greer), Joe Foust as the requisite fool and Mark D. Espinoza as Autolycus, a strolling street musician with a hidden agenda.