Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Old Hearts Fresh' Moves Shakespeare into the Grove

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Old Hearts Fresh' Moves Shakespeare into the Grove

Article excerpt

There are all kinds of ways to see a play in St. Louis in velvet seats, on old church pews, on a blanket under the stars.

But sitting in the middle of Manchester Avenue?

No kidding. A section of Manchester known as the Grove is closed to traffic for "Old Hearts Fresh" a production as imaginative in its style as it is in its modern take on "The Winter's Tale." About 300 people turned out for the opening Thursday night.

A project of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Shakespeare in the Streets plants itself in the Grove, a historic neighborhood known today for clubs and restaurants. It's also the artery through a diverse body politic: white and black, straight and gay.

The Grove is also where "Old Hearts Fresh" takes place. Nancy Bell, who wrote the adaptation, sets the opening scene in a community garden. Then, barely an hour later, the story draws to a close at a neighborhood fundraiser. In between, everything happens right where we're sitting.

Bell, director Alec Wild and production designer Justin Barisonek spent months talking to people who live and work in the Grove. A number of those people appear in the play, along with professional actors.

Even the set the facade of an old warehouse, lavishly decorated with a mural by artist Grace McCammond suits the area. This mural will remain after the play closes, and it will look as if it's been there forever.

Wild keeps the action so fluid that the short play is easy to follow, even though it's packed with vivid characters: little kids twirling hula hoops, karaoke singers, dedicated gardeners, flirtatious teens, a glamorous drag queen, urban pioneers and longtime residents.

That only serves to raise a reasonable question: Who among them doesn't fit in?

They all do, of course, in this generous, decidedly different show.

Michael Shreves known professionally as Michelle McCausland, Miss Gay Missouri of 2012 welcomes us into the world of the play as the charismatic Time. Time does a lot of damage, she concedes. …

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