Baba Yaga: An Evening of Toy Theatre | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Baba Yaga: An Evening of Toy Theatre

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Baba Yaga: An Evening of Toy Theatre, Billy Goat Experiment Theatre Company, at the Broadway Armory. Vasilisa, the young heroine of this Russian coming-of-age folktale, is sent into the woods by her abusive stepmother to capture fire from Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch. Protected only by her wits and a talisman given her by her dead mother, Vasilisa vanquishes her enemies and lives happily ever after.

Members of the Billy Goat Experiment explore this tale in five puppetry and live performance pieces 10 to 15 minutes long presented simultaneously in separate rooms; spectators go from one room to another in whatever sequence they choose. Cat Jarboe's carnivallike "Working Wheel" focuses on the tasks demanded of Vasilisa, first by her stepmother and then by Baba Yaga (later the girl rejects a prince's ill-worded offer of marriage). In Lynn Marie's "Vasilisa," a life-size mannequin contains an array of props symbolizing the different components in a woman's spiritual growth. Most engaging is David Weeks's "Baba Yaga's Fire," in which the masked sorceress (played by Weeks), assisted by marionettes, acquaints us with the liberating power of the magic flame.

Troy Martin's "Backward and Forward" and Todd Zaruba's "A Doll's Life" are more simply executed, and their stage pictures tend to be static. But there's no denying the ensemble's overall imagination and industry in executing this highly original concept.

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