April 1 2015 01:51 PM

Old Globe production is fairytale and visual feast

Tanya Thai McBride (left) and Amy Kim Waschke
Photo by Liz Lauren

Charming and resplendent, The White Snake is both fairytale and visual feast. If you're interested in greater substance than that, you'll have to wait until the very end of the 100-minute-long, one-act production. It's then—and only then— that an enduring, even existential message is imparted. The rest of the time, The White Snake, onstage at The Old Globe Theatre with playwright and author Mary Zimmerman directing, is as light as the wispy, floating draperies that simulate ocean, sky and rain.

Zimmerman's script is based on a Chinese fable about a snake that transforms itself into a woman, falls in love and strives to remain in the human world. But except for some comic quips and—as they say in movie ratings—adult situations, The White Snake could easily be a fantasy tailored for children. Adults, including this one, may find their minds wandering even as their eyes are dazzled by Daniel Ostling's scenic design, Mara Blumenfeld's costumes, T.J. Gerckens' lighting and Shawn Sagady's projection design. Yes, the production staff deserves top billing, along with the instrumentalists playing Andre Pluess' haunting original musi. Other than one startling surprise cameo by the eponymous serpent, the audience's appreciative gasps are stirred by the spectacle of this show more than what happens in it. (The snake puppets manipulated by actors, by the way, are lovable—and you don't often see "snake" and "lovable" in the same sentence.) Much of the tale is told in onstage exposition, appropriate for a fairytale, perhaps, but not completely theatrical in effectiveness. Amy Kim Waschke is near-angelic as the title character. Tanya Thai McBride, as her snake-turnedwoman sidekick, has the comic part and executes it with little restraint, while Jon Norman Schneider occupies the rather unrewarding role of the White Snake's lover (and later, husband). From a narrative standpoint, if The White Snake were more magical realism than fairytale, it might resonate beyond its richly inventive images. Not that there's anything wrong with fairytales. Hollywood loves 'em. So, evidently, do a lot of theatergoers. The White Snake runs through April 26 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. $29 and up; oldglobe.org

Write to davidc@sdcitybeat.com.


The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode: Diversionary Cabaret presents this comical spoof of the 80s sitcom. Opens Thursday, April 2, at Diversionary Theatre in Hillcrest. diversionary.org

Lord of the Flies: A group of young boys regress into warring savages when their plane crash-lands on a deserted island. Adapted for the stage by Nigel Williams, it opens in previews on Friday, April 3, at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org

Mamma Mia!: A young woman searches for her real father in the days leading up to her wedding, all set to the pop anthems of ABBA. It opens for five performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 3, at the San Diego Civic Theatre in Downtown. broadwaysd.com

Buyer & Cellar: A hit off-Broadway comedy about an unemployed actor who becomes Barbara Streisand's personal shopkeeper. Opens Saturday, April 4, at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

Legally Blonde: The Musical: A musical adaptation of the hit film about a co-ed who leaves an entitled life in Malibu to chase her boyfriend to Harvard Law School. It opens for five performances at Saturday, April 4, at UCSD Mandeville Auditorium in La Jolla. muirmusical.wordpress.com 

Now playing

Kin: Playwright Bathsheba Doran explores the families of Anna and Sean, who meet on an online dating site. Presented by Ion Theatre, it runs through April 4 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com

Our Lady of the Tortilla: Hijinks—and an examination of faith—ensue when a New Jersey woman sees an image of the Virgin Mary in a tortilla. Through April 4 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org

Rhinoceros: In playwright Eugene Ionesco's Theater of the Absurd work, a post-World War II comment on conformity, the inhabitants of a French town transform into rhinoceroses one by one. Through April 19 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com

Sunset Park: A widow's Brooklyn apartment building is going co-op, and her adult children sow conflict when they see an opportunity to profit. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through April 19 at Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. scrippsranchtheatre.org

My Fair Lady: A man attempts to turn a rough-around-the-edges girl into something more sophisticated—and then develops the hots for her. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs through April 26 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com

The White Snake: A play based on a Chinese fable about a snake that turns into a woman, falls in love and runs afoul of a mean ol' monk. Through April 26 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

The Pirates of Penzance: Nine actors stranded on a desert island perform Gilbert and Sullivan's classic comic opera. Through April 29 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com

Boeing Boeing: In this comical farce by Marc Camoletti, a scheming bachelor finds himself engaged to three different flight attendants only to find one day they're all scheduled to arrive at his apartment at the same time. Through May 3 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: In a musical based on a Biblical tale, a dude who has an "amazing" garment becomes a slave, but he triumphs in Egypt regardless. Presented by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through May 31 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org

Win Place or Die My Jockeys are Killing Me: Mystery Café's latest comic-caper dinner-theater production is set at the Thoroughbred Club at Upson Down Race Track. It's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net


See all events on Friday, Dec 2