My Fair Lady at Cygnet Theatre
Two beautifully performed shows must end their runs this Sunday.
The White Snake, Old Globe Theatre. Mary Zimmerman does theatrical adaptations of literary works, among them The Odyssey, The Arabian Nights, and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, plus a version of Jason and the Argonauts and Galileo Galilei, an opera with Philip Glass. San Diego has only staged two. Lamb’s Players did a fine production of her Metamorphoses (based on Ovid’s classic and performed around and in a square pool) in 2005. And now the Old Globe must conclude its run of her enchanting White Snake. Based on a popular Chinese legend about star-crossed lovers, Zimmerman the director creates a dreamscape where baby blue streamers fall like rain, where sheets billow like roiling rivers, and where illusion is so predominant that five narrators can’t agree on what actually happened — beyond that White Snake Lady came down from the mountain and fell in love with Xu Xian, and that to do so, she had to become mortal. But was she a demon? Was her love genuine? And how could Fa Hai, the “holy man” able to see past and future, have a “villainous” heart? And could what White Snake Lady withheld from Xu Xian have saved them both? Find out for yourself.
My Fair Lady, Cygnet Theatre. Can you change a poor Cockney woman into a duchess by teaching her to speak correctly? Okay, not you. Can Henry Higgins, professor of phonetics, do it on a bet? At Cygnet Theatre, you bet! Instead of 36 performers and bulbous sets creaking on and off, the Sean Murray-directed production pares the great musical down to eight actors. They do everything from moving props, to rapid costume and wig changes, and doubling roles). Throughout they give the Lerner and Loewe classic an infectious exuberance. The characters seem to grow younger as they shed societal restrictions - even Murray’s excellent Higgins, who, purists beware, might have grown accustomed to more than just Eliza’s face. George Bernard Shaw, whose 1938 film version of Pygmalion was the source for My Fair Lady, was one such purist. Asked if Eliza should end up with Higgins, he said no way: it should be Freddy, if anyone. To which Alan Jay Lerner wrote in his published libretto: “Shaw and Heaven forgive me — I am not certain he is right.”