Kat Sandler has another poignant, hilarious hit on her hands with her latest work Yaga. Making its world premiere at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace, Yaga is a stellar start to Tarragon’s 2019/2020 Season. Sandler expertly plays with the legend of Baba Yaga and weaves it into a riveting whodunit infused with such sexuality, power, and intrigue you’ll be on the edge of your seat.

Yaga features three exceptional actors who each inhabit several characters over the course of the production. Helmed by the incomparable Seana McKenna playing Catherine, a seductive professor, along with Claire Armstrong as Carson, a local police officer, and Will Greenblatt as Rapp, an out of town private eye; the talent is immense and really gets to shine as they transform from one character to another, guiding us through time as space as they tell their story. The set was expertly designed for these transitions to be seamless, the many birch trees housing various hidey-holes and shelves for props and costumes. It allows the story to flow in a way that enchants and excites the audience; a perfect fit for a story fraught with magic and murder. Each character is wonderfully nuanced and the actors masterfully breathe life into them. They fire Sandler’s witty banter back and forth with incredible artistry, eliciting gasps and laughter in equal measure (even some talking back from the audience!).

Personally, I love how Kat Sandler is able to talk about serious topics so deftly, and yet intersperse these conversations with moments of absolute hilarity. With Yaga, I loved how Sandler used the fairy tales and witch lore to explore modern day feminist issues. We get to see how the patriarchal ideas of today are similarly couched in these tales of yore. And these observations are given to us straight from the horse’s, or rather witch’s, mouth; Sandler’s use of direct address, with McKenna as Baba Yaga with a captivating Ukrainian accent and centuries of wisdom, provides enlightening and topical articulation of the problems that women have been facing throughout history. It creates these thought provoking intervals amongst an already intriguing narrative.  Yet Catherine and Carson prove that these misconceptions of women are just that, and not every fairy tale ends with a happy ending for everyone involved.

Yaga had everything I have come to expect from Sandler’s work and then some.  I left the theatre mystified and thrilled, and definitely wanting to see more! Make sure to keep an eye out for more of Kat Sandler’s work, and hopefully this fantastic play will be staged again soon.

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