Darkness from the East

The fall of the Soviet Union freed not only political prisoners and some high-end vodka brands but also truckloads of culture — including some fairy tales so dark they make Tim Burton and Edward Gorey look like My Little Pony. One is Tontlawald (in previews this weekend), an Estonian tale adapted by Cutting Ball Theater with the help of a Poland-based group called Teatr Zar that seeks centuries-old stories and polyphonic songs from former Soviet republics. Cutting Ball playwright Eugenie Chan wrote a script based on Tontlawald, joining two directors and a choreographer to create a production that mixes theater, dance, and choral music. In the tale, a girl called Elsa accidentally wanders into a horrorshow of a forest — Tontlawald — but she remains because it seems better than returning home, where she’s regularly beaten by her stepmother. She’s befriended by a maiden, who takes some of her blood to make a copy of her that will go home in her stead and eventually exact revenge. There’s also a black cat the size of a horse, a deadly snake that sprouts from a head, and a rooster who makes dinner fly onto the table by itself. When she becomes a woman, Elsa is turned into a bird and sent back into the world. She’s shot by a hunter but transforms back into a woman when she falls. Turns out the hunter was a king’s son, who finds her, falls in love with her, and marries her. Happy ending? Maybe, but we bet Elsa has a truckload of trust issues.
Feb. 17-19; Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 17. Continues through March 11, 2012

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