Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Twelfth Night
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's recent review of Gloria: A Life

The Clave Sole Band, led by Philip Gomez, with
Esteban Andres Cruz and (l-r) Cassidy Flynn,
Alisha Espinosa, and Ricki Franklin

Photo by Phillip Hamer
If you're not jetting down to Florida to stroll through Miami's vibrant Deco District this week, you can grab a blanket and a picnic basket and head over to elegant Forest Park for the next best thing: Twelfth Night is this summer's big St. Louis Shakespeare Festival offering, and it sizzles all the way through, with a romantic Latin beat. And it's free, if you don't mind sitting on the grass.

Jasmine Cheri Rush is a mega-vixen as a Beyoncé-like Olivia. Ricki Franklin makes Shakespeare fresh and funny all over again, and I am ever so grateful that director Lisa Portes cast her as "Dame" Toby Belch, a cousin to Olivia and traditionally one of the theater's greatest fools. Except she's brand new here, and funnier than ever thanks to Ms. Franklin.

Of course, Twelfth Night is not laid in Miami, but Illyria. But here it's still vibrant and throbbing, and set in the present day with cell phones, a wet bar, and a pool, on a lovely set by Regina GarcĂ­a. And "Dame" Toby is just one of the sexual wild cards in this deck of knaves, including two central characters who later appear in blindingly bright silver lamé drag and full fetish-gear. While comprehension often takes a backseat to comedy in this production, great pacing propels us to the final curtain at around 10:45 p.m. But it's all so stylishly samba-licious you won't mind the runtime a bit.

The plot, if you can extract one from all that sybaritic steam on stage, involves a set of twins, sister Viola (played by soulful Gabriela Saker) and brother Sebastian (whom we see only fleetingly, but who is nicely played by Avi Roque) separated after a shipwreck at the outset. Of course, they ought to be reunited. And it's a comedy, so of course somebody ought to get married. And therein lies the substance of the evening.

But first, to get a job, Viola masquerades as Cesario, who falls in love with her employer, the wealthy Orsino (warmly played by Felipe Carrasco). Malvolio (imperious Ryan Garbayo) is the servant of Olivia (d'you remember Olivia?) and he becomes a jackpot of comedy in act two for sassy, distaff Toby and her crew, including the indefatigable Cassidy Flynn as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, along with Alisha Espinosa and (later) local favorite Adam Flores. This group is exceedingly foolish, which I think makes for an implicit "don't do drugs" message in act two, when three of them do, in fact, snort the Miami of drugs on stage.

Esteban Andres Cruz (Feste) and the sultry Clave Sole band onstage keep the mood elevated for the rest of us. Mr. Cruz serenades, and the band has us swaying in our (purchased) seats or on our brought-from-home blankets if we're groundlings, at regular, romantic intervals. I also like to bring a memory foam chair-pad, and sometimes even wrap a thin ice pack in a towel to sit on, before the sun goes down and cool breezes begin to waft over from the vast reflecting pool below the St. Louis Art Museum. But the climate changes quite a lot during the show, and you might even need a light sweater near the end.

Twelfth Night runs through June 25, 2023, at St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park (just off Fine Arts Drive on the east side of Art Hill between the Saint Louis Zoo and the Saint Louis Art Museum), St. Louis MO. For tickets and information, please visit

Curio: Femi Aiyegbusi
Orsino: Felipe Carrasco
Feste: Esteban Andres Cruz*
Maria: Alisha Espinosa*
Fabian: Adam Flores
Andrew Aguecheek: Cassidy Flynn
Dame Toby: Ricki Franklin
Malvolio: Ryan Garbayo*
Antonio/Valentine: Adam Poss*
Captain/Priest: Christina Rios
Sebastian: Avi Roque*
Olivia: Jasmine Cheri Rush
Viola/Cesario: Gabriela Saker*

Clave Sole (Band):
Band Leader, Piano: Philip Gomez
Bass: Tung
Congas: Thor Anderson
Timbales/Percussion: Herman Semidey

Director: Lisa Portes
Switch Technical Director: Matt Anderson
Scenic Artist: Andy Cross**
Prop Master: Taylor Abs
Scenic Build & Buyer Coordinator: Lori Beth Augustin
Stage Manager: Emilee Buchheit*
Assistant Stage Manager: Britteny Henry*
Production Assistants: Kayla Thompson, Esther Enlow
Dialect Coach: Elisa Gonzales
Intimacy Consultant: Tress Kurzym
Fight Choreography: Michael Pierce
Infection Control Specialist: Charlie Tatum

Costume Shop Manager: Michele Friedman Siler
Cutter/Draper: Zahrah M. Agha
Wardrobe Supervisor: Abigail Hartline
Wig Designer: Dennis Milam Bensie
First Hand: Carole Tucker
Stitcher/Dresser: Indigo Amunategui
Stitcher: Hailey Washington
Dresser: Olivia Rodle
Crafts: Brendan Woods

Master Electrician: John Ryan***
Assistant Master Electrician: Lou Ritter***
Follow Spots: Kevin Burke, Elijah Calvird

Sound Engineer: Casey Hunter***
Sound Consultant: Ann Slayton
Sound Effects Board Operator: Spencer Roe-Wagner
Audio Assistants: Bee Muzzy, Ragan Ingli

House Manager: Kaitlyn Kelly
Box Office Manager: Emily Westerholt
House Management Interns: Lydia Kibler, Lucy Schaefer

* Denotes Member, Actors' Equity Association

** Denotes Member, USA Local #829 IATSE

*** Denotes Member, IATSE Local #6