• THEATER REVIEW:
Charm is all over The Old Globe Theare’s production of the Chinese fable “The White Snake,” directed by Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman. Globe’s artistic director Barry Edelstein accurately summed up her talents when he called her a practitioner of the stage director’s art at the highest level.
Zimmerman’s proficiency with staging fables, myths and ancient tales is why “The White Snake” resonates with audience members from beginning to end. Costumed musicians who take their place before the stage lead off this joyous journey.
High on a mountaintop, two kindred spirits have had enough of their boring lifestyle and commands from Fa Hai, the wicked holy man. Having studied ancient traditions, the two have the ability to transform themselves from snakes into women, which makes White Snake (Amy Kim Waschke) and Green Snake (Tanya Thai McBride) ready to seek an adventure. They talk about listening to music, socializing with people and maybe even falling in love, as they make their way down the mountain.
The exquisite set changes from designer Daniel Ostling include transporting the women through a stage-sized cloth that represents the clouds they fly through. Arriving at their destination they find a world full of color, beautiful costumes, Chinese paintings and lanterns.
In no time at all White Snake has her eye on Xu Xian (Jon Norman Schneider), a pharmacy assistant who lives with his sister and brother-in-law. White Snake enlists the help of her sidekick, Green Snake, to entice Xu Xian to visit their home where they can work their magic on him to fall for White Snake.
While the story and acting is enticing, it’s the visuals that enthrall throughout the night — the scene changes are effortless and exquisite.
McBride and Waschke nail their characters. Waschke is the loving and cautious wife who tries not to expose her “other” side. McBride is zany and hilarious with an “I Love Lucy” wackiness that is eager to please.
At the same time, both women must be puppeteers for their snake sides, which they control using sticks. Schneider is adorable as the naïve and easily led suitor. Matt Decaro’s Fa Hai, is definitely a wicked soul to fear.
“The White Snake,” celebrated as one of China’s Four Great Folktales, may soon become one America’s favorites alongside “Cinderella” and “Snow White.” No one will leave this show disappointed.
• IF YOU GO: “The White Snake” runs matinees, evenings through April 26, 2015 at The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego. Tickets from $29 at (619) 234-5623 or theoldglobe.org