Saturday, June 3, 2023

TWELFTH NIGHT • St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

The high times in Shakespeare’s romantic comedy are dialed up to eleven in St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s Latin-spiced production of Twelfth Night. A distinctly “Miami Beach” inspired setting steps in for the Kingdom of Illyria, and the Bard’s four hundred year-old laughs are given a fresh take via Spanish lines peppered throughout, traditional Latin songs and electronic beats.

Viola (Gabriela Saker) and her twin brother Sebastian (Avi Roque) are shipwrecked and tossed up onto foreign shores. Exiled and separated from her brother, Viola decides to disguise herself as a man, change her name to Cesario, and try to get a job with soccer star, Duke Orsino (Felipe Carrasco). This is when her entanglement in the love lives of the locals sets the plot in motion. Viola, now Cesario, is employed as a page for the lovesick Orsino, who longs for the wealthy and glamorous Olivia (Jasmine Cheri Rush), who, grieving for her brother, pines for no one. Cesario, who has fallen for Orsino, is sent to woo Olivia, who couldn’t care less about Orsino but takes an immediate shine to Cesario. It’s a hot mess.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Doug and Kayleen meet in the nurse’s office at school when they’re eight years old. He’s busted up his face after riding his bike off the school roof, and she’s got stomach problems. There’s a curious examination of each other’s wounds, external and internal, carried out with all of the contrary ardor and aversion of children, and a bond is formed. The play unfolds in non-chronological scenes spanning their decades-long friendship as they drift apart, reconnect, and attempt to mend the other’s hurts.

Gruesome Playground Injuries marks the return of the Steve Woolf Studio Series, and the intimate Strauss Black Box Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center is a perfect spot for it. Playwright Rajiv Joseph balances humor and poignancy during his sequence of vignettes, but we don’t end up learning a ton about the hapless protagonists during its 80-minute exploration of shared damages. Luckily, the direction and performances keep the play from wearing out its welcome.