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Stories Untold: A Baba Yaga Fit for the 21st Century

A man and a woman look at each other while talking on-stage.
Courtesy of Theatre Intime Content Manager Lucy Shea

Theatre Intime’s new show “Yaga,” first written and produced by artistic director Richard Rose of the Tarragon Theater in 2019 and now directed by Kat McLauglin ’25, is a humorous and riveting retelling of the classic Slavic folklore of Baba Yaga. The production asks the audience to reconsider the stories and humanity behind the characters we take for granted.

The story of Baba Yaga finds its origins in early Slavic folklore, depicted as an ugly old woman cloaked in black who lives alone in the woods. Her magical hut stands on chicken feet and any children who cross her have their bones grinded and flesh consumed using her giant mortar and pestle. Living on the edge of society, Baba Yaga is the archetypal villain who lurks in the shadows, waiting for her next victim. 


To set the stage, Henry Calles (Tate Keuler ’26), the narcissistic male-manipulator and heir to a famed yogurt conglomerate, has disappeared in his small college town. Overambitious private investigator Charlie Rapp, double casted by Kueler ’26, investigates Henry’s disappearance with the help of a reluctant Detective Carson (Kristen Tan ’26). Professor of osteology Katherine Yazov (Lana Gaige ’24), bitter ex-girlfriend Pamela Riley, double casted by Tan ’26, and wronged mother Geena Sandeson, double casted by Gaige ’24, become the key leads in this mysterious case. When Calles’s violent and salacious history comes to light, our detectives have to piece together just who is responsible for his disappearance and why they would want him dead. Connecting an intricate web of lies and motives, the existence of a real Baba Yaga threatens to upend this small community. 

Though “Yaga” delves into the ugly and inhuman, it finds its foothold in the comedy that guides the play through its motions. There is no shortage of raunchy and contemporary humor on display between the engrossing characters, ranging from the acts of getting with “older women,” having intercourse on desks, and sitting through the mind-numbing ramblings of a 20-something true crime podcaster. If the twists and turns aren’t enough to keep one wanting more, the characters’ witty banter should be. 

That said, Yaga would be nowhere near as captivating without the three main actors, each of whom take on many different roles. Charlie Rapp’s underwear-clad screams to be released from the clutches of Baba Yaga jolted every audience member awake, while Baba Yaga’s menacing yet contemplative opening monologue perfectly set the tone for all that was to come. The disparate characters that Tan was able to fully embody was truly a sight to behold, switching from a 40-year-old loopy neighbor in one scene to a conflicted cop in another. If you want to feel as though you have a first-person perspective into the world McLaughlin has created, this acting will bring you there. 

Baba Yaga acknowledges the disgust and constraints imposed upon her and women who dismiss the norms in their world. Questions of community justice and the role of communality among women are central to the mystery of “Yaga.” The violence that Calles inflicts on others is countered by justice inflicted on him by the women he interacts with under a corrupt criminal justice system. How are we to reconceive of Baba Yaga and the ire she draws from society in light of the crimes of those like Henry? Where one justice system might fail, does justice enter into the hands of another? “Yaga” presents the audience with the opportunity to sit with these questions and see how they play out on the stage. 

Small but mighty, “Yaga” invites us into a mysterious world of crime and mythology, constructing something completely new in the wake of the old classics. Its themes challenge what we know about the characters we’ve never thought to question, a humanizing undertaking necessary for this new age. If not for its gripping mystery, staying for its dynamic cast and pure comedy is definitely an evening well spent. 

“Yaga” is currently showing at Theatre Intime on Apr. 5 and 6 at 8 p.m. and Apr. 7 at 2 p.m.


Sam Dorsey is a contributing writer for The Prospect from Orange County, Calif. He can be reached at

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