‘The White Snake’ part of Schuster Fringe Fest


staff writer

Gannon University’s Schuster Theatre presented “The White Snake” in continuation of its Fringe Festival fundraiser.
Consisting of blended versions of a classic Chinese folktale, “The White Snake” tells the story of two unlikely lovers.
After years of isolation and studying, White Snake and her companion Greenie disguise themselves as humans in order to explore a nearby village.
What seemed like a brief trip quickly becomes a permanent adventure after White Snake falls in love with Xu Xian, a kindhearted pharmacy assistant.
Expecting Xu Xian’s child, White Snake is faced with the problem of keeping her true form a secret from her husband after Fa Hai, the head monk of a nearby monastery, tries to expose her.
Mary Zimmerman’s version of “The White Snake” beautifully portrays the trials and tribulations of true love.
When you could actually hear the dialogue, Gannon’s cast put on an entertaining show; however, it was clear who the seasoned theater veterans were.
Natalee Junker presented a White Snake that was pleasantly soft and delicate. She made one feel sympathetic for the character. Unfortunately, at times Junker’s delivery was too subdued, resulting in lost lines and a clueless audience.
Seamus Clerkin’s Xu Xian was wonderfully compassionate. Throughout the performance, Clerkin did seem occasionally stiff. Despite the brief moments of rigidity, Clerkin fit his character and was a delight to watch.
Greenie, portrayed by Kendra Walker, was delightfully feisty. Having a completely different disposition than her delicate counterpart, it seemed like Walker upstaged Junker at various times during the show.
Zach Hyman’s over-the-top Fa Hai stole the show. Skillfully, Hyman was able to switch between calm and agitated at the drop of a hat. A powerful stage presence left the audience with a memorable villain.
Of the various chorus members, Mary Stephens, Michael Haas, Lauren Sovisky and Chase Miles were of note. Stephens’ artistic portrayal of Xu Xian’s doubt, represented as a figure with long nails that would poke and scratch at him, was enjoyable to watch.
From Haas’ exaggerated health problems to Miles’ etiquette lessons, both added humor to the show.
Sovisky gave an overall strong performance, with a much-needed clarity in her delivery.
Aesthetically, the show was pleasing. The set itself was very simplistic, which along with using cast members as props, worked very well.
The cast was able to seamlessly pull off the rapid and frequent set changes, which produced subtle transitions throughout the story.
While the snake puppets looked like bedazzled under-door draft stoppers, the actors did a wonderful job incorporating this element of the show.
Tom Barton and Emily Scifo enhanced the experience as a two- man pit.
The duo provided some light transition music and accompanied prerecorded vocal tracks.
Barton’s flute playing was pleasant to the ear, but at times it didn’t seem to mesh well with Megan Hamm’s vocals.
Although some of the newer faces to Gannon’s stage didn’t have the same pizazz as their more seasoned counterparts, the cast did an excellent job sharing Zimmerman’s take on the classic tale.
With pleasing sets, sound and acting, “The White Snake” was a memorable part of the Schuster Theatre’s Fringe Fest.

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