This production of “The White Snake” was produced on a modest budget, but it looks like a million bucks. The show is a two-hour cavalcade of attractive costumes, luminous paper lanterns, billowing cloth panels signifying water, and several large animal puppets, created for this production by Sacramento master craftsman Richard Bay.
But this show has more than good looks going for it. I was impressed by the way the tale of Lady White Snake – an immortal being of immense learning, with magical powers – is related with sly, winking humor. For instance, several narrators tell us how long White Snake studied sacred texts, seeking enlightenment, saying “Oh, she studied, and she studied, and she studied, and she studied, and she studied, and she studied! For 1,700 years!”
Lady White Snake decides to become a beautiful young woman, and visit Earth to experience the everyday life. There, she and her assistant Green Snake meet a handsome young man, who lends her his parasol. The young man says, “Young ladies, you mustn’t stand about in the rain like this, the cold will cut you in half.” And Lady White Snake, who clearly wants to talk to the young man, takes refuge in modesty, saying, “Oh sir, we thank you for your kind attention, but we are heading home.”
Yet somehow, the conversation continues, and the gentle young man awkwardly extends an offer, saying “Well, I was just about to hire a boat to hurry across the lake.” Green Snake, deciding to drop the good manners, bluntly asks, “May we share the boat with you” And the young man – very pleased, says, “I was about to ask the honor.”
It’s love at first sight between the young man and White Snake, of course. The story moves swiftly on – there’s a wedding, and a baby. But then a meddlesome Buddhist monk suspects something is amiss with Lady White Snake, and complications ensue.
Eventually, there’s a battle between supernatural forces, a quest for magic herbs, and more. It’s all related with a very appealing blend of humor, sumptuous visuals, and pathos. All in all, “The White Snake” is the most appealing fantasy I’ve encountered in a theater in quite a while, and if you enjoy imaginative stories, I think you’ll really enjoy it, too.
The Community Asian Theater of the Sierra production of “The White Snake” continues at the Nevada Theater in Nevada City through May 6.