Posts Tagged ‘lisa portes’

Twelfth Night
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lisa Portes
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival
June 2, 2023

Clave Sol (band) led by Philip Gomez, Esteban Andres Cruz, Cassidy Flynn, Alisha Espinoza, Ricki Franklin
Photo by Phillip Hamer Photography
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–I love how versatile Shakespeare’s plays are in terms of staging. Their being in the public domain gives directors much freedom in terms of how to present the plays, and while I’ve seen many great stagings that are more on the “traditional” side, I love modern dress presentations and re-imaginings, because I think that these versions can do a lot to help modern audiences relate to Shakespeare’s stories and characters, as well as bringing the meaning of his dialogue to life in a fresh, contemporary way. St. Louis Shakespeare Festivals latest production of the comedy Twelfth Night in Forest Park is an excellent example of how this more modern approach can work so remarkably well. 

The whole vibe of this piece is fantastic. The traditional setting has given way to a modern Miami-inspired look and feel, with lots of excellent Latin music arranged by music director and sound designer David R. Molina and played by the terrific onstage band, Clave Sol, led by Phil Gomez. Also featured are the excellent vocals of Esteban Andres Cruz, who plays Feste, the “fool” who is more of a minstrel, really. The story is the familiar one, of a shipwreck that separates twins Viola (Gabriela Saker) and Sebastian (Avi Roque) and the mixed-up romances involving Duke Orsino (Felipe Carrasco) and Olivia (Jasmine Cheri Rush); along with more hijinks in the form of the plotting by Olivia’s hard-partying cousin Toby, called Dame Toby here (Ricki Franklin), along another would-be suitor of Olivia’s, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Cassidy Flynn), and Olivia’s assistant Maria (Alisha Espinosa), who play a trick on Olivia’s stuffy security man Malvolio (Ryan Garbayo). The comedy is fast-paced and fun, and the setting, based in the largely Cuban-American culture of Miami, works especially well here.

The look, style, and tone of the production is excellent, from Regina García’s stylish set to the vibrant, eye-catching costumes by Danielle Nieves, to John Wylie’s striking lighting design. The pacing is quick and energetic, and the excellent music provides an ideal mood to the proceedings. 

The performances are top-notch, led by the engaging Saker as an appropriately bewildered but strong-willed Viola. Her scenes with the equally strong Rush as the haughty Olivia and Carrasco as the determined Orsino are highlights. There are also delightful comic performances from Franklin and Flynn as the scheming pair of partying pals, Dame Toby and Andrew Aguecheek, along with memorable support from Espinosa as Maria, and a marvelous turn by Garbayo as the hilariously duped Malvolio. There’s a strong cast all around, providing a strong sense of ensemble chemistry that adds to the overall comic mood and contemporary air of the production. 

This Twelfth Night is vibrant, energetic, at turns bawdy and slapstick-ish, and just a pure delight from start to finish. It’s an excellent example of how Shakespeare can be adapted to different settings and cultures, all the while still highlighting the themes and characters of the story. And it’s free. This “Shakespeare in the Park” entry from STLSF is a great way to start off the summer theatrical season. 

Jasmin Cheri Rush, Gabriela Saker
Photo by Phillip Hamer Photography
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival is presenting Twelfth Night in Forest Park’s Shakespeare Glen until June 25, 2023

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