Breeders Theater--Tolstory now playing

by Tim Takechi

We’ve all heard the expression “If these walls could talk.” But what about “If these nesting dolls could talk?”

And sing? And dance? And act out fairy tales?

In Breeders Theater’s newest production, “Tolstory” tells us a story through the eyes of four matryoshka dolls that belong to a typical 19th century Russian woman named Katrina Karenin. The audience sees very little of Ms. Karenin, but we get to see plenty of the four dolls she owns throughout her entire life.

Matryoshka dolls, better known in English as nesting dolls, are the rounded wooden dolls that decrease in size when they are placed inside one another. They are a great metaphor for the passing of time, as the smallest doll can represent infanthood while the largest represents late adulthood.

We see Katrina Karenin from infancy to childhood, young adulthood, adulthood and lastly, old age. While her life may not be as epic as that of most of Leo Tolstroy’s famous heroines, if our most valued possessions could talk, they would tell us that everybody’s life has their memorable moments. You don’t need to be a princess to act like a princess.

Starring the diverse talents of Deena Chapman, Adrienne Grieco, Maddy Rasmussen, Laura Smith and Erika Zabelle, the four performers who portray the nesting dolls creatively use colored scarves to dance, create their various characters and to make the songs come to life.
Playwright T.M. Sell understands that sometimes the best moments of our lives shouldn’t be retold by the walls we live in between, but by our most cherished possessions that we hold most dear. The obvious play-on-words between the great Russian author Leo Tolstoy and Pixar’s “Toy Story” films goes to show that our toys really give us a better look into the paths we’ve walked down through the years.

“I hope the audience laughs and thinks about what matters most in their lives,” T.M. says. “We should always think about what’s important to us because at the end there are things you can’t take with you, such as your possessions.”

The four dolls act out fairy tales such as Goldilocks (with a very slimy twist), the Frog Princess and other Russian and original stories to keep the little girl entertained. They interweave these tales through eloquent original songs written by Nancy Warren.

If you are in the mood for a fun evening of nostalgia and fantasy, make plans to see “Tolstory” at Breeders Theater.

“Tolstory” performs at the Des Moines Beach Park Auditorium at 22030 Cliff Avenue, Des Moines, WA 98198. Show dates are April 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 7 p.m. and April 6 and 12 at 2 p.m. The show is written by T.M. Sell with music by Nancy Warren and directed by Teresa Widner Hicks.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets. For more information, go to The performance is suitable for older children and above.

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