The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre

Sarah Elizabeth Wallis and Judy Leavell in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls. Photo by Greg Mooney

Step into a world where reality and fairytales collide in the Alliance Theatre’s production of The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls. Bizarre at times, familiar at times, but utterly satisfying, the world premiere of the play will leave you wanting more.

Many folklorist will tell you that fairytales have a basis in reality. These moral tales have been passed down from generation to generation to teach children right from wrong. What if these tales are still alive and people are still living their stories? That premise is at the heart of The Fairy Tale Lives of Russian Girls.

The winner of the Alliance/Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition, the play by Meg Miroshnik proves to be a complex, imaginative and entertaining story in itself. Zhilli bylli frames the journey of the story. Literally translating “they lived, they were,” the phrase is the equivalent to our “once upon a time.” From the moment those words are spoken, the audience is whisked into a web of fairytales against the backdrop of the modern Russian experience.

In the play Annie, a Russian immigrant as a child, returns to the homeland to learn how to speak better Russian. However, there is something strange and ominous about the woman she is boarding with. Across the hall, she makes friends with a girl whose boyfriend has turned into a bear. Along the path she meets a mistress and a prostitute. This isn’t your children’s fairytales.

The show boasts a talented cast with each member creating strong performances. The six member all female ensemble is led by Sarah Elizabeth Wallis, whose portrayal of the meek Annie dazzles the audience with her charm and wit. However, Judy Leavell (Baba Yaga/Auntie Yaroslava) steals the show. Whether you look at her comedic delivery, captivating expressions or her sinister persona, she carries the show. Not to be overlooked, Kate Goehring displays phenomenal talent by playing four fascinating characters.

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre

Sarah Elizabeth Wallis and Kate Goehring in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls. Photo by Greg Mooney

One of the most awe-inspiring parts of the play, the set impresses, and Collete Pollard shows extreme creativity. The two-tiered set exemplifies the old world and new world meshing in its design. Along with Howell Binkley’s fascinating lighting design, the set becomes an integral part of the storytelling.

Miroshnik’s script is witty, provocative and thoughtful. While the play could have become heavy, she handles the dance well and keeps the play light and quick paced even with her commentary on the political and social realities of modern day Russia.

The Fairytale Live of Russian Girls is a unique play that epitomizes what Atlanta theater should be. In this economy, I can’t blame theaters for making safe choices, but as someone who sees multiple plays a month, I found this experience to be refreshing and rewarding.

The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls plays at the Alliance Theatre‘s Hertz Stage through February 26. For tickets and more information, please call 404-733-5000 or visit the Alliance Theatre’s website. The show runs 90 minutes with no intermission. Please note that once the show begins, no one will be allowed into the theatre for the safety of the actors.

– Kenny Norton