Posts Tagged ‘stlsf tourco’

Merry Wives
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Suki Peters
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s TourCo
August 8, 2023

Michelle Hand, Rae Davis, Carl Overly Jr., Mitchell Henry-Eagles, Christina Yancy
Photo by Phillip Hamer Photography
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Imagine if The Merry Wives of Windsor was a 1990’s sitcom. That’s the premise of Merry Wives, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s TourCo show that’s running (for free) in various parks and other locations in the St. Louis area throughout the month of August. With a small, energetic and versatile cast, and some fun production elements, this is an entertaining Shakespearean update, even if it is a bit on the long side.

As is true for a lot of Shakespeare’s comedies, Merry Wives involves a lot of trickery and mixed-up romances. It also involves a popular character from some of the Bard’s history plays that he brought back, Sir John Falstaff, played here by Carl Overly, Jr. The swaggering, party-loving Falstaff has made the mistake here of trying to woo two women at once–Mrs. Page (Michelle Hand) and Mrs. Ford (Christina Yancy)–who are too clever for his own good. Upon discovering that Falstaff has sent the same letter to both of them, the two women set out to play a trick on the knight that involves a lot of hilarious hijinks. Meanwhile, the jealous Mr. Ford (Joel Moses) sets out to expose his wife’s supposed treachery by disguising himself and asking Falstaff for “help”, and the Pages’ daughter Anne (Rae Davis) deals with a trio of varying suitors all played by Mitchell Henry-Eagles, with expected mix-ups and hilarity ensuing in that plot, as well. 

The sitcom structure works well here, with a fun soundtrack provided for the transition scenes, and a host of 90’s pop-culture references thrown in for good measure. The cast is excellent, with great enthusiasm and comic timing, and a whimsical production design by Laura Skroska with clever costumes by Kayla Lindsey. The approximately 90-minute runtime is a bit long for a sitcom, and it might have benefited from a little bit of trimming. Still, the whole cast and crew manage to keep up the spirit of the show throughout. Overly, as the only cast member who doesn’t play multiple roles, is an energetic Falstaff, and the rest of the players are commendable in their sheer versatility. 

I love the TourCo shows because they are so accessible. It’s not just free Shakespeare, like the headline shows in Forest Park each year. These are shows that go to various different venues throughout the region. I saw Merry Wives in Tower Grove Park, and if you look at STLSF’s website, you will find the schedule and locations for the rest of the run. It’s more than worth checking out. Even with its slightly long runtime for a show of this format, it’s a lively, fun production that’s easy to enjoy, especially for fans of 1990’s sitcoms and pop culture. 


Rae Davis, Mitchell Henry-Eagles, Joel Moses
Photo by Phillip Hamer Photgraphy
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s TourCo is presenting Merry Wives in various locations until August 29. 2023

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tre’von Griffith
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival TourCo
August 16, 2022

Cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Photo: St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Simply put, the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s TourCo production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream–currently touring various parks and public areas in the metro area–is a whole lot of fun. With a small cast playing various roles, eye-catching costumes and a catchy musical score, this is a Midsummer like you won’t have seen before, but you should see it, because not only is it unique, fresh, and fun–it’s also free!

Described on STLSF’s website as a “highly musical Afro-futurist adaptation”, this production was directed by Tre’von Griffith, who also composed the music and designed the sound. There’s a lot of plot going on here if you are familiar with this show’s story, and six cast members may not seem like enough, but these actors are more than up for the challenge, each playing multiple roles with energy, enthusiasm, and great comic timing. There are also memorable, futuristic costumes with occasional steampunk influences by Brandin Vaughn that add an additional air of whimsicality to this production. Modern touches like cellphones and characters filming TikTok videos of each other (and themselves), also add to this fresh take on the source material, which has been streamlined to run about 90 minutes. It’s fast-moving, hilarious, and full of memorable performances by the entire cohesive ensemble–Tiélere Cheatem, Rae Davis, Ricki Franklin, Asha Futterman, Mel McCray, and Christina Yancy. 

All the players are excellent here as the action moves swiftly between three different stories–of mixed-up lovers, mischievous fairies, and ambitious actors–and although it does help to know the story beforehand, the players do an excellent job of setting up the plots in the introduction, as well as playing out the story with clarity and vibrancy. Although everyone is excellent, and commendable as each performer plays more than one role, there are some standouts. Franklin shines especially as the self-promoting, overacting weaver-turned actor Nick Bottom. Yancy as both the sprightly Puck and the shy Snug (who has to play a lion in the play-within-a-play) is also a standout, as is Cheatem particularly in the roles of the lovelorn Helena and the imperious director of the actors, Peter Quince. It’s such a strong ensemble, and everyone seems to be having a great time acting out this fast-paced, laugh-packed story that also features some memorable hip-hop/r&b/pop influenced music. 

I was able to see the production in the parking lot of Schlafly Bottleworks, which proved to be a great location, accommodating a good-sized crowd with plenty of room. For the rest of the performances, the company will be traveling around the St. Louis area, with times, dates, and locations listed on the STLSF website at this link. Even if you’ve seen this play before, I highly recommend checking it out. You’re in for some fun surprises, and a particularly strong cast. 


Rae Davis, Ricki Franklin
Photo: St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s TourCo production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing at various locations in the St. Louis area until August 27, 2022

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