“The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls” produced by Washington Ensemble Theatre

It’s not the onion-domed churches or the hefty babushka-wearing older women you first notice when you visit Russia. Oh no, what catches your eye is the bevy of lithe, long-legged Russian beauties. They are everywhere, and Washington Ensemble Theatre has brought them to the Seattle stage, mostly in a series of costumes that leave little to the imagination and much to desire.

These Russian women are caught up in a world where magical realism rules, specifically where life in modern Russia collides with its traditional fairy tales. The play is so creatively presented that it doesn’t really matter that, at times, you will probably be a bit confused. Award-winning playwright Meg Miroshnik wants it that way.

It all begins when Annie, an American, returns to the land where she was born to study the Russian language in an effort to get rid of her accent. She boards with the old hag Baba Yaga who, Annie realizes quite early on, may be a girl-eating witch. Her neighbors, the long-legged Russian beauties add adventure and some terrifying moments to her Russian experience.

Samie Spring Detzer as Annie brings just the right amount of naiveté and spunk to her role as the overwhelmed, mystified, but unendingly game American. Libby Barnard, Shannon Olivia Campbell, and Leah Pfenning as the Russian beauties swagger and prance with just the right insouciance, delicious to watch as they lure Annie deeper and deeper into both realities. Kudos to Katie Hegarty for the costumes that add so much to the production.

Kudos too to Director Ali el-Gasseir for including the charming shadow puppetry that bridges the real and the make believe. Under his guidance, wit and sophistication mark the entire production.

Through Oct. 22 at Washington Ensemble Theatre, 608 19th Ave. East, Seattle (www.washingtonensemble.org or 206 325-5105).

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