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Trap Door Theatre’s “The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls” Review – The Feminine Mystique Post-Soviet Style

By Amy Munice

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Simina Contras in red with Emily Nichelson

 

Annie (Emily Nichelson), Jewish-American émigré from Russia, a poster child of sorts of wide-eyed and not-ready-for-primetime Valley Girl innocence, is sent by her mother (Ann Sonneville) back to Russia to lose her too-American accent. 

 

(left to right) Halie Ecker, Emily Nichelson, Simina Contras, Meghan Lewis

 

Once there she hooks up with a few gal pals—Masha (Simina Contras) and Katya (Halie Ecker)—

 

Halie Ecker is also "The Mistress"

 

Meghan Lewis as The Whore

 

Simina Contras

 

who look like they would be equally at home beckoning from the windows in Paris or Amsterdam red light districts.  

 

(left to right) Haley Ecker, Emily Nichelson, and Simina Contras

 

Much of their time is spent in stiletto and primping in anticipation of meeting their imagined Mr. Right – a kleptocratic  billionaire in the new Russia perhaps or some such variant of Mr. Czar. 

 

Ann Sonneville

 

Theirs is a dangerous world, where stories might begin “once upon a time” but aren’t expected to have a happy ending.

 

Gal pals (left to right) Katya (Halie Ecker), Annie the American (Emily Nichelson), and Masha (Simina Contras) contend with evil spirits and dangers

 

Post-Soviet Russia on one level, it’s also a place where evil eyes, spirits and spells that one imagines were stewing for centuries in the steppes haunt them. 

 

Marzena Bukowska is the witch-like host who seems to be looking forward to devouring her guest Annie, the American (Emily Nichelson)

 

Annie has to contend with her mother’s old friend and host, Baba Yaga (Marzena Bukowska), being a witch intent to fatten her up before she throws her in the stew pot.  

 

Emily Nichelson as Annie The American in one of many wide-eyed moments when her host, Marzena Bukowska as Baba Yaga scares her

 

Masha has to contend with her man becoming a bear and devouring her too.  It’s her liberation from that peril that provides an allegory of sorts of women finding their way in a men’s world, with advice from a woman who needs no man because she is a whore (Meghan Lewis)  and the woman power of sisterhood and common effort bringing the fairy tale to its ending.

 

(left to right) Ann Soneville and Emily Nichelson

 

There is much to enjoy here – Bukowska’s flair for the scary and homely witch character and muttering Babushka;

 

The witch (Marzena Bukowska) lets loose on Annie, the American (Emily Nichelson)

 

the sexy postures, poses and dances of the very female cast; and most of all engaging acting with tight direction (Nicole Wiesner) at every turn.  This isn’t a script (playwright Meg Miroshnik) for the literally minded or someone who wants the narrative plain and tidy.  Many may agree with this reviewer that it is one of those plays that is better to savor in afterthought than to enjoy in the moment. 

 

Trap Door continues to amaze by bringing out the best in top actors who perform for donations at the door.  This cast merits generosity.

 

Now through November 21. 

 

Trap Door Theatre

1655 West Cortland Avenue

Chicago

 

For tickets visit the Trap Door website or call 773 384 0494.

 

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Photos:  Michal Janicki

 

 

Published on Oct 24, 2015

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