Now Playing: Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams Delight in St. Louis

There are just a few more performances from two favorite local festivals

Sep 15, 2023 at 5:27 pm
click to enlarge Jack Kalan (center) as Hal and the cast of "The Game's Afoot" and the cast of "The Game's Afoot.
Phillip Hamer Photography
The Game's Afoot takes soccer to the stage.

St. Louis Shakespeare Festival scores with The Game’s Afoot

If you’re from the St. Louis region, chances are you’re aware of the city’s long-standing connection with soccer. You likely know of our contribution to the shocking U.S. victory over England in the 1950 World Cup, but did you know that professional soccer in the U.S. started right here, decades before that game? For a fun and informative understanding of just how closely the game and city are entwined, be sure to catch St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s The Game’s Afoot in the shadow of CityPark this weekend.

The entertaining play, written by local sportswriter Benjamin Hochman, takes its inspiration from local history and the Henriad (Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V plays) The show features a time-traveling Loop Trolley that enables Prince Hal, a standout north city player, to assemble a team of local soccer luminaries from across the years in order to defeat Frenchy, a team owner attempting to block St. Louis’s 2019 bid for an MLS team. 

Jack Kalan and Thomas Patrick Riley are engaging and appealing as Hal and his south city rival-turned-teammate Hotspur. Appearances from Bill “Mr. Soccer” McDermott, gold medal Olympian Lori Chalupny Lawson, player, coach and broadcaster Ty Keough, and current St. Louis City 2 standout John Klein III add local soccer star power to the play. However, it’s Keating, as the affable Falstaff, and the Fleur de Noise crew who nearly steal the show while personifying the enthusiasm and good-natured fun of local fans. The Game's Afoot combines drama and sports to create a delightfully soccer-centric, family-friendly show. 

Written by Benjamin Hochman, and directed by Adam Flores. Presented by the St. Louis Shakespeare festival through Saturday, September 16. Free to attend in downtown at the intersection of Olive and 22nd.

There’s more than "Suddenly Last Summer" at the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

The Tennessee Williams Festival continues through this weekend with the final performances of the playwright’s ‘horror story of manners’ “Suddenly Last Summer” (see Sarah Fenske’s review for more insight into this riveting and poetic production). As in previous years, the festival offers much more than just the featured play. “Something Unspoken,” a one-act play that examines the fears and insecurities of a wealthy southern spinster through her complex relationship with her secretary, was presented in an intimate space that amplified the story’s themes. Several scholarly panels, a walking tour of Williams’ University City haunts, as well as a film screening, tribute reading and late night poetry slam celebrated the author.

Similar to Deseo and 10 Blocks on Camino Real from previous years, the festival presented a Williams’ play as interpreted by artists from other countries and cultures. Teatr Baza’s Szklana Menazeria (The Glass Menagerie) took a surreal approach to Williams’ St. Louis-based classic, creating a memory play more evocative than realistic, yet effectively compelling and resonant. Performed in Polish with English supertitles, the adaptation compressed the story to its most necessary scenes while incorporating unexpected yet thematically fitting moments, including a tense pas de deux quarrel between Tom and Amanda and a bittersweet love ballad between Jim, the gentleman caller, and Laura. Dorota Zodkiewicz, Magdalena Dudek and Lukasz Furman are beguiling as Laura, Amanda and Jim. However, Jakub Sirko, as Tom, is the heart and soul of the play. Though restrained, his emotional arc and natural charisma create a strong, successful pull on the audience’s sympathy.

If you’re a Tennessee Williams fan, I recommend you make plans to attend more than just the main stage production at next year’s festival.

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis continues through Sunday, September 17. The producer and executive artistic director is Carrie Houk and the Szklana Menazeria director is Tomasz Zadrozny.

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