White Snake at the Guthrie – A sociological review


This is a beautiful play which transports the audience to China by means of a rain of ribbons and clouds of cloth. White Snake is about a female snake who despite obtaining great wisdom and mystic powers remains unfulfilled. Love of course being the answer. White Snake transforms into a human woman. She marries and keeps her true form from her husband, thereby living in constant fear of discovery.

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It is a play about divide truths delivered with great humour. This production managed to captivate and delight at the same time Mary Zimmerman’s writing and direction captures how society fears and isolates the powerful woman. The Green Snake (played by Tanya Thai McBride) stood apart for her comic timing, as did some narrative in Chinese etiquette by Richard Howard, but the focus was the White Snake’s journey. A powerful woman is always cast not as the hero of a story but the demon, the witch, the siren, when in truth she risks everything for others. In this play the White Snake is an enlightened being, a healer, a business woman, a sensual woman, a wife, a hero, and a mother. The play becomes a commentary on how women are expected to twist themselves into many shapes to fulfil the needs of others; demonstrating a perspective of the world as one ruled by the feminine.

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