Friday, Jun 23, 2017

The White Snake (2012)

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing two of Mary Zimmerman’s productions in the past; both of which blew me away. (If you get a chance to see Metamorphosis or The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, go. Immediately. You’ll be glad you did.) So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I purchased tickets to her newest production, The White Snake.

Billed as a beloved Oriental legend, this is the tale of a 1,700-year-old snake demon who spends a day as a woman and falls in love with a simple pharmacist’s assistant. With the help of her maid, another snake demon, she marries her love and helps him become a great success. But true love must undergo trials, and snake demons more than others.

Let me tell you now that this production joins my top ten plays from the sixteen years I’ve been attending OSF. I urge you to move it to the top of your ‘to see’ list immediately. It’s only playing through early July, and tickets will sell out soon. (I’m strongly considering traveling back in early June just to see it again.)

Director/author Mary Zimmerman excels at taking ancient stories and re-visioning them into modern terms. At the Preface I learned that Ms. Zimmerman casts the production without having a script in hand. The script was developed on the first days of rehearsal, and tailored to the skills and abilities of the actors. A tremendous burden for both the author and actors, but one fraught with tremendous potential. And the actors live up to the potential, beautifully. OSF regulars Emily Sophia Knapp and Christof Jean are particularly wonderful in their varied roles (and Jean’s heartfelt closing words will rip the tears from your eyes, matching the ones in his). Newcomers Amy Kim Waschke and Tanya McBride are truly excellent as the White Snake and Green Snake, respectively. The production is elegantly simple and I must offer loud kudos to Scenic Designer Daniel Ostling for doing such a good job of realizing Ms. Zimmerman’s vision.

Can you fall in love at first sight? Have all true lovers met in previous lifetimes? Can love survive doubt and the machinations of outside forces? With some fairly clear references to current politics, Zimmerman offers up a perspective in which love transcends physical limitations, like being human and being a snake.

Bring a hankie, or two, and go watch one of the best plays OSF has ever produced.