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.

Orsino (Felipe Carrasco).
Photo credit: Phillip Hamer Photography

Saker distinguishes herself as one of the more introspective of the bunch as the cross-dressing Viola. She considers the reception her male guise affords her while suffering in silence, having to keep her true identity and passion hidden from the duke. Carrasco’s Orsino maintains a swagger even as he mopes around his chaise lounges, flanked by a couple of body guards. He manages a bit of fancy soccer footwork as well, ignoring his growing closeness to Cesario, preferring to stay lost in his indulgent melancholy. Rush’s Olivia is a diva with extra sauce on the side. Accompanied musically by Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” (chef’s kiss), Rush sashays, stomps and booty drops through her plush apartment, whether she’s relaxing with her entourage by the hot tub or quickly dabbing on makeup when Cesario comes calling on Orsino’s behalf.

Olivia (Jasmine Cheri Rush) and
Viola/Cesario (Gabriela Saker*).
Photo credit: Phillip Hamer Photography

But what would a Shakespearean love triangle be without a little drunken revelry thrown in? This is where show stealers Ricki Franklin and Cassidy Flynn as Toby and Aguecheek respectively, come in. Toby is Olivia’s cousin and Aguecheek is her flamboyant drinking buddy, and Franklin and Flynn paint clear, hilarious portraits of folks we all recognize -- always up for it, fun drunks. Their late-night bong wielding, line snorting debauchery keeps Olivia’s household up at night, causing headaches for the house mistress, Maria (Alisha Espinosa). They all eventually get up to no good plotting a wicked prank on Olivia’s no-nonsense, buzz-killing steward, Malvolio (Ryan Garbayo), who blindly falls for their brutal trap. And then there’s Olivia’s clever jester, Feste, played by a hard-working Esteban Andres Cruz. A silky-voiced Feste entertains the household and us, crooning Spanish tunes and playing the fool with great physical comedy, but his observations about the goings-on are among the wisest.

Feste (Esteban Andres Cruz*), Aguecheek (Cassidy Flynn),
Maria (Alisha Espinosa*) and Toby (Ricki Franklin).
Photo credit: Phillip Hamer Photography

Regina García’s marble-look set oozes nightclub swank with rooftop pools, and Danielle Nieves costumes the merrymakers in bright colors and loud patterns, Miami Vice-styled suits for the twins, lingerie for Olivia and solemn black and a cowboy hat for poor old Malvolio. It’s all set to the rhythms laid down by band leader, Clave Sol’s Philip Gomez.

There’s nothing like a little Shakespeare under the stars in Forest Park, so get yourself to the Glen, enjoy the food and drinks on hand to purchase from STL Barkeep and Steve's Hot Dogs, and settle in for the full-out entertainment offered up by Twelfth Night.

Malvolio (Ryan Garbayo*).
Photo credit: Phillip Hamer Photography


Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Lisa Portes

Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park

through June 25 | tickets: FREE - $250

Performances Tuesday through Sunday, nightly at 8pm


Curio: Femi Aiyegbusi

Orsino: Felipe Carrasco

Feste: Esteban Andres Cruz*

Maria: Alisha Espinosa*

Fabian/Servant: Adam Flores

Aguecheek: Cassidy Flynn

Toby: Ricki Franklin

Malvolio: Ryan Garbayo*

Antonio/Valentine: Adam Poss*

Captain/Priest: Christina Rios

Sebastian: Avi Roque*

Olivia: Jasmine Cheri Rush

Viola: Gabriela Saker*

Viola/Cesario (Gabriela Saker*) and Orsino (Felipe Carrasco).
Photo credit: Phillip Hamer Photography


Scenic Design: Regina García

Costume Design: Danielle Nieves

Sound Design, Music Supervisor and Co-Arranger: David R. Molina

Lighting Design: John Wylie

Stage Manager: Emilee Buchheit*

Assistant Director: Christine Freije

Dialect Coach: Elisa Gonzales

Assistant Stage Manager: Britteny Henry*

Prop Master: Taylor Laine Abs

Costume Shop Manager: Michele Friedman Siler

Fight Choreographer: Michael Pierce

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of

Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States


Band Leader/Piano: Philip Gomez

Bass: Tung

Congas: Thor Anderson

Timbales/Percussion: Herman Semidey

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