Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
April 3, 2015
Magic happens when you fall in love. But the course of love is a circuitous path, and happily ever after rarely happens.
And so it is in the gorgeously theatricalized Chinese legend, “The White Snake,” adapted and directed by Tony Award-winner and MacArthur “genius” grantee Mary Zimmerman. Within her poetic text, she considers various versions of the 2000 year-old tale. At every bend in the road, she chooses the more whimsical, magical option.
Zimmerman, who has a particular penchant for myth and ancient lore, is one of the most imaginative, ingenious theatermakers in America. Her brilliant work, created in collaboration with a magnificent design team, includes eye-popping lighting, costumes and projections, and a distinctive, evocative original soundscape, here played live by a superb 3-musician, multi-instrument band.
In this 2012 creation, the snake of the title is a spirit who can assume human form. She and her sidekick, the hyper and hilarious Green Snake, descend their mountain as young women, to see what the human world is like. White Snake, now the beautiful Lady Bai, falls deeply in love with a poor pharmacist’s assistant, the reincarnation of a gentle man who saved her life many centuries ago. But an evil monk is determined to sever this ‘unnatural’ bond.
Many powers are mustered, much magic is invoked to combat the formidable challenges to these star-crossed lovers, which Zimmerman playfully calls in her program notes, ‘Romeo and Snakulet .’.
The stunning production at the Old Globe, with its jaw-dropping visuals, is a wise, funny, heart-warming romantic fable, replete with fabric rain and slithering puppet serpents, and a battle between the Wind and the Sea, all accomplished by a stellar ensemble, presented in a stylized minimalism and simplicity befitting the Asian origins.
Despite the many zigzagging detours of the love story, we learn, at the end, that “all forking paths come to the same place.” And when the piece concludes with the soothing suggestion, “Don’t be afraid; it’s impossible to die alone,” we eagerly, gratefully believe.
“The White Snake ” runs through April 26, at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.
©2015 PAT LAUNER