Simple production highlights captivating twists, turns, and power dynamics in Yaga
Someone goes missing in a small town. A private detective teams up with a member of the local police to find them. The more they dig, the more the scope of the investigation begins to change. There is something old in the woods — old and dangerous.
Yaga follows two different perspectives. The missing person, Charlie Rapp, and Henry Kalles, who is trying to find him. The play switches between the two timelines carefully, revealing or setting up a new plot point each time. The revelations and twists are really well done, with satisfying pay offs.
As Kalles digs, he unearths a connection to the old stories about Baba Yaga. The guilty seem innocent, and the innocent appear guilty. Even the missing person isn’t as innocent as they first appeared.
The play gets off to a slow start initially. There are a lot of pieces that need to be set up for the audience, but everything pays off in the second act. It’s not that the first act is boring or is told poorly, but rather that it takes a moment for the full scope of the story to gradually reveal itself to the audience.
After the initial set up, the clues are uncovered and placed well enough for the audience to put the pieces together on their own.
While the set and production are very minimal, the simplicity only adds to the strengths of Yaga: the dialogue and the acting. Given that it’s a mystery/thriller, the action comes from the interrogation scenes which play with power dynamics. Even though it might appear someone has the upper hand, it’s always a sentence away from changing. The action is the dialogue, and all the actors do a fantastic job making it shine.
Yaga also does some very interesting double casting. There are three actors and at least a dozen roles. Nicholas Nahwegahbow plays Charlie Rapp and Henry Kalles, Tracey Nepinak plays all the older women, and Anastasiia Ziurkalova plays the younger women. A couple characters feel a little flat, but they aren’t in the story for long and mostly suffer from being too similar to each other. It’s difficult to pick out a star of the cast, given that they are all fully capable of switching between characters from scene to scene. The main cast, Kalles, Detective Carson, and the Professor, are the characters who stood out and are the most developed.
If you are interested in seeing a retelling of Baba Yaga that not only transplants the story successfully into the modern day, but has something to say about the legendary witch. Definitely check out Yaga.
Yaga is playing at the Belfry until Oct. 8. Tickets can be purchased on their website.