Goodman Theatre’s “The White Snake” enchants: A must-see love story

Seeing a show at the Goodman Theatre is something which every Chicagoan should do.

If you go

Runs through June 8th, 2014

Recommended for ages 10+


For tickets and show information, visit

Experiencing a Mary Zimmerman production at the Goodman Theatre is an event which every person- everywhere- should do. And for the uninitiated, there’s no better place to start than the Goodman’s Chicago premiere of “The White Snake,” written and directed by Zimmerman herself.

The two thousand year-old legend of the White Snake combines themes of mortal men, ephemeral women and of love transcending all external forces. When immortal White Snake (the gorgeous and graceful Amy Kim Waschke) spends a day “down the mountain” among humans, she falls in love with the ordinary pharmacy assistant Xu Xian (charmingly portrayed by Jon Norman Schneider) and decides to forego the spirit world for a humble life of love and simple joys. This aberration and “unnatural love” angers the vengeful- and borderline terrifying- Abbot Fai Hai (Matt DeCaro), setting in motion a chain of events which will threaten to separate the lovers for eternity. At times heartbreaking, this production is also startlingly funny and hypnotically beautiful. Skillful puppetry and hauntingly lovely music (written and designed by Andre Pluess) make this supernatural fable a 100 minute delight.

Scenes seamlessly glide into scenes with the help of billowing silks, gorgeously projected video, and a cast which transitions from character to set piece with exceptional efficacy. (Emily Sophia Knapp’s portrayal of Xu Xian’s “Doubt,” complete with enveloping clawed fingertips during the protagonist’s darker moments was a jarring device.) The movement of the ensemble- in particular the mesmerizingly energetic Tanya Thai McBride as White Snake’s companion Green Snake- is perfectly choreographed to the nth degree.

The narration (and wryly omnipresent narrators) breaks up the action in genuinely funny ways, shifting from re-enacted rules for Chinese drama to moments pointing out the many story paths the scene could have taken- a nod to the multitude of spins this ancient legend has taken over the years.

Feeling like I was under the spell of one of the thematic dreams myself, I was entranced right to the very last- and incredibly powerful- line. “The White Snake” is a show that’ll stay with you for a long, long time. And much like the knowledge of true love’s unbreakable bonds, what a gift that is.

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