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“The White Snake” is Exssselent

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[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Alright, puppets are cool.

“The White Snake,” performed by the Encore Varsity Theatre on Oct. 1-3, made me believe I could grab a puppet and turn into a snake myself. Intricate and extensive, the snake puppets for the white and green snake had long handles so the holder could seamlessly maneuver them in the realistic, slithering motion of a snake. And heavier than they look, it’s a feat in and of itself they didn’t drop the puppets at any point during the performance.

Everything about “The White Snake” slithered into my heart. The enunciation and accurate hissing of White Snake (Katie Hilburn) and Green Snake (Gabbie David) was flawless as they discussed their plan to magically turn into humans and leave their mountain home to live among men. I sat amazed that I could hear every word and “sss” even from the back of the auditorium.

The actors truly left themselves behind and wonderfully embodied their characters. Lovely and graceful, White Snake performed beautifully, although slightly better in human form than snake form. And her right-hand woman, the excitable third-wheel-ish Green Snake, never abandoned her passionate voice inflections and  movements, even when she jumped on Fa Hai’s (Sean Gedhi) back in a fit of rage against his attempt to split up the married White Snake and Xu Xiang. But the infamous and zealous Fa Hai kept his evil, plotting countenance in every moment. And, yes, Gedhi did shave and dye his hair for this performance.     

For the actors in the play, time was truly on their side. Right on cue for the dreamy love-at-first-sight scene between White Snake and Xu Xiang (Buddy Kennedy), strips of blue cloth smoothly descended from the catwalk for the best abstract depiction of a storm I’ve seen.

While occasionally spineless and gullible, Xu Xiang lovingly personified the sweet, doting husband and landed a spot in my heart after his deep-hearted monologue asking forgiveness from White Snake. And I have to admit, when the couple was doomed to be separated eternally, it was enough to garner an “Ugh” of disappointment. Contrasting this moment, the borderline cheesy but perfectly timed and executed comedic lines left giggles resonating throughout the packed crowd. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_raw_html]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwd2lkdGglM0QlMjI4MDAlMjIlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0QlMjIxNDA0JTIyJTIwZnJhbWVib3JkZXIlM0QlMjIwJTIyJTIwc2Nyb2xsaW5nJTNEJTIybm8lMjIlMjBzdHlsZSUzRCUyMm92ZXJmbG93LXklM0FoaWRkZW4lM0IlMjIlMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRm1hZ2ljLnBpa3RvY2hhcnQuY29tJTJGZW1iZWQlMkY4MzIwMjI5LXVudGl0bGVkLWluZm9ncmFwaGljJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGaWZyYW1lJTNF[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]When it was time for a new location, the scenes changed so gracefully I barely noticed the fresh set and new narrator standing off to the side, ready to advance the plot.

Any time one of the 17 actors came onstage, the costumes were dazzling – enough to make me want to ditch my own hipster-chic fashion sense for a sleek kimono. Every character, main or supporting, looked lovely in the splendor of their Chinese-styled wardrobe.

And “props” to tech theater for the sound, lighting and sets. If the aim of the soundtrack was to set a soft, lulling mood, it did it’s job. Only, it also made me want to fall asleep. This soothing and accurate Chinese-styled music played as the audience walked in, at intermission and interspersedly throughout the play itself.

But, if anything, the lights kept me awake. The bright, radiant light effects (created with the school’s new Intelligent Lights) and dramatic backlit movements changed perfectly with the mood of the scene, accurately relaying the desired vibe to the audience.

While seemingly simple, the set was gorgeous. The mystical fog and lugubrious moon subtly set an eery tone when a battle erupted between Fa Hai and White Snake. Cloth was used to personify wind, rivers and doubt while also acting as drapery and backdrops for the various settings. And even when Hilburn knocked over the wooden table (apparently flimsier than she imagined) of potions and herbs, A.K.A. glass bottles and breakable items, she elegantly improvised with David’s character and the scene progressed under the audience’s nose that a mishap had occurred.   

And the riveting last line: “But don’t worry, it is impossible to die alone” left me aching for more as soon as the dismal words escaped from Narrator Two (A.J. Abdullah).
Even after the last scene concluded, the cast kept their professional characterization until the end. Forgoing the typical curtsy for a Chinese-styled bow, the actors remained in character even through the audience’s standing ovation, myself included, until they gracefully exited the stage.      [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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“The White Snake” is Exssselent