Saturday, February 8, 2014

Theatre for a change

I ponder movies and books here from time to time--but tonight I want to tell you about a play, Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls that is playing at the Yale Rep through Feb 22.

There are several things that make it special. First there is the 6 woman ensemble that performs it--they are all wonderful, some of them in multiple roles. Secondly is the script that takes rather dark images from Russian 'fairy tales'--which are more like horror movies, very Grimm-like, not the fairy infested, beautiful princesses, brave princes, happy endings of our scaled down versions of bloody tales, supposedly because they would be too brutal for children.

What a cop-out. Children know horrors we can only guess at as adults. In his remarkable 1973 book, If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him, Sheldon Kopp gives an Eschatological Laundry List of a partial register of the 927 (or was it 928?) Eternal Truths.

Number 25 is this: Childhood is a nightmare.

"Fairytale Lives" brings childhood's nightmare to the stage through clever dialog, long, intense monologues, music by the actors (Bern tells me that 'actors' is an ok name for both men and women) via a take off of the Russian group 'Pussy Riot', and sound effects also done, in plain view to stage right, by the members of the cast.

The play is part bringing the dark stories of Russian lore (which begin not "once upon a time" but a much more direct "They lived. This happened") and part a political commentary on the Soviet Union today and their contempt for Americans. The main character (though this is an ensemble work) is an 20 year old Jewish woman born in Russia and raised in southern California as a religious refugee from the Soviet Union who goes back to Russia to take a class in 'Business Russian' (which turns out to be a class about Russian Fairy Tales) and to 'claim her heritage'.

No spoilers here, but the other thing is, the play is hilarious in many parts. But because it was so dark as well...and so innocent as well (what better combination for a fairy tale with a bear and a witch?) the audience was hesitant, I think, to laugh out loud until near the end.

Yale Rep is expensive (our seats were $78 each) but this play is more than worth it.

(Warning to tall people: I have a sore knee from sitting through the play {done without intermission which is another accomplishment of the work} from sitting almost sideways in my seat. And I'm still telling myself I'm almost 5'9 when I'm not anymore....Just me talkin'....)

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.