Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness
Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's review of Doctor Faustus, or the Modern Prometheus

Karl Hawkins, Erika Flowers-Roberts,
and Michael James Reed

Photo by J. David Levy
Two cartoon-cutout cars, both alike in dignity, set off on separate road trips. And the cars are conjoined at the sides, so they can flip around on stage, making the stories of the two cars parallel. It's seven years after a tsunami swept a father and two children out to sea. That, in turn, left the mom and their two surviving, identical twins, back on dry land to fend for themselves. And, as you may guess, each of those cars now contains one half of that original family, seven years later. Now, both halves are setting out to see a solar eclipse in the Midwest, in this goofy, delightful children's play.

Nancy Bell's original script, loosely based on The Comedy of Errors, flies by in just under an hour, with Michael James Reed as both father and mother, in a madcap comedy at the Grandel Theatre. It's part of Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis' "In The Works" series currently underway in midtown St. Louis.

But the show has already had its shake-down tour through local elementary schools for the last few months. The laughs, and the blithe Shakespearean quotes, and quick changes fly by like passing cars on an interstate, with barely as much notice given. Special mention goes to director Gary Wayne Barker's wailing highway spin-outs, where Mr. Reed goes from playing dad to mom and back again in a dizzying display.

Karl Hawkins is the can-do son who was not washed away in the original tempest, and Erika Flowers-Roberts is his older sister, swept up in game apps on the long family drive to reach the totality of that solar eclipse. Neither is really quite aware of the tragic happenings of their very early years. Meanwhile, coming from an entirely different city, along with Mr. Reed flipping directions (and genders) as the exasperated dad, are Ryan Lawson-Maeske and his can-do sister, played by Jen Sinnen. A Kansas truck stop, as far from any ocean as they can get, may become their point of reunion.

Before the show, there's a little singing contest, with very low pressure, for kids in the audience (and the occasional adults) who've signed up before-hand. After that, during the story, the Shakespeare quotes and references go by without any intimidating fanfare. You may have fun pointing out the quotes you recognize to any children you bring along. But in the end, all the loose ends are tied up, and the last great quote (from Troilus and Cressida, of all things!) puts a lovely bow on the entire event.

My one gripe is that this show runs only on Saturdays at 4:00 pm, and lets out about 30 minutes after the gargantuan, full-length Aladdin next door at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. On opening day for this show at the Grandel, there was still plenty of traffic around Grand Center on the way home. Or you could just wait out the traffic and go upstairs with the kids, to enjoy the fun and games prepared for after this show.

A Most Outrageous Fit of Madness, through November 24, 2018, at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square (across from Powell Symphony Hall), St. Louis MO. For more information visit

Mom/Amelia Ephesus, Dad/Aegeon Syracuse: Michael James Reed*
Ollie Ephesus: Karl Hawkins
Roman Ephesus: Erika Flowers-Roberts
Tip Syracuse: Ryan Lawson-Maeske
Mimi Syracuse: Jen Sinnen

Artistic Team:
Director: Gary Wayne Barker
Stage Manager: Emily Clinger*
Scenic Designers: Margery & Peter Spack
Costume Design: Michele Friedman Siler
Production Manager: Tom Martin
Sound Design: Kareem Deanes
Assistant Stage Manager: Cecilia De Erausquin