Chasidy Moore, Bailey Lomax, & Bridget Thesing in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls. Photo by Bill Brymer.
The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls
By Meg Miroshnik
Directed by Amy Attaway
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2017 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
In a far off land there exists a world of magical witches and angry bears, a world where girls roam the country to find themselves and grow into women. Theater ’s current staging of The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls blends fairy tale archetypes with Russian customs and modern chic to create a whimsical feminist fable. It blurs the lines between fantasy and reality as one girl’s journey leads to self-discovery.
Theater 502 delivers thought-provoking productions and this show is no exception. That’s the beauty of this show and the company. What really stood out to me were the vast assortments of parallels. Old Russian traditions of Baba Yaga and the vengeful bears are juxtaposed with a soundtrack of Riot Girl favorites and Pussy Riot. Additionally, a cast of female characters finds their identities in a world controlled by and dependent on men that are nowhere to be seen. Most striking is the parallel between fantasy and reality. Our main character, Annie, travels a strange land of mythic proportions in a modern world. It takes shape in the form of a small thrust set decorated with a woodland motif replete with mushrooms, trees, and greenery reminiscent of a storybook. The range of contrasts in the design work creates a whole new world of discovery for its characters.
The stellar cast is a celebration of feminism. As Annie, Bailey Lomax carries the journey of an American girl across the sea with intentional Little Orphan Annie levels of optimism. Lomax throws in equal doses of naiveté but keeps her wits about her as she and her new friends defeat wrongdoers. As Annie’s aunt, Yaroslava/Baba Yaga, Carol Tyree Williams is a likable, if not an entirely persuasive witch. Williams’ luring is calculating and more enticing with every snack she offers and every plan she schemes.
Annie meets two girls on her journey, Katya and Masha. As Katya, Bridget Thesing is animated and spunky as she plots to marry rich and powerful men. With a foundation in a Russian fairy tale of the two brothers, one who is a czar, Thesing does well illustrating the intended motivations for the character. Katya is a young woman with very little opportunity in a male-dominated world, so her choice to find a “czar” or a wealthy man seems understandable.
Annie’s other friend is Masha, played by Chasidy Moore. Sultry and stoic with dark hair, dark makeup, and high heels, Moore’s performance is a personification of what we immediately think of when we think of Russia. Moore introduces the play with a speech inspired by Russian fairy tales about bears, rebellion, and sexual awakenings in the shadow of an empire and oppression.
Dara Tiller and Megan Mraz complete the cast with humorous performances in multiple roles. Tiller’s strongest moments are as Annie’s immigrant mother, who strongly advises Annie to be wary of witches and to grow on her journey. Mraz’s appearance as Nastya toward the end of the show provides a familiar Western character type as a fairy godmother who helps Annie save the day and provides some cheeky laughs along the way.
Theater 502 has done it again. The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls is a funny, fresh, new production, a coming of age fable that creates a world where girls can literally make anything happen.
Cast: Bailey Lomax, Chasidy Moore, Bridget Thesing, Megan Mraz, Carol Tyree Williams, Dara Tiller
The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls
At the Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!