KANE AND HABIL IN THE PIZZA PARLOR Plays La MaMa, 1/18-27
With humor and vision, "Kane and Habil in the Pizza Parlor" (http://kaneandhabil.com) explores the original family sins that are still impacting our civilization. The title characters are the children of Adam and Eve. The play is a comedy, written and directed by Serge Ernandez. The production features an adept cast headed by Obie-winner Sheila Dabney as Eve, who also directs the play's chorus. Ernandez is a veteran of The Living Theatre; Dabney is a senior member of La MaMa's Great Jones Rep. La Mama E.T.C. will present the play's premiere run January 18 to 27 in its second-floor Club.
Like other theatrical works drawn from the creation story (notably the first act of "The Apple Tree," based on Mark Twain's "The Diaries of Adam and Eve"), this piece takes a lighthearted approach. There are wit and innocence, likeable characters, and an overall optimistic philosophy. The play contrasts the legacy of Kane--hatred, judgment and separation--with the legacy of Habil -- compassion, forgiveness and one-ness. The latter is submitted as the path to free humanity from its guilt and aggression, enabling it instead to love. Playwright Serge Ernandez explains, "It is a comedy where we laugh often and easily, as we must laugh at ourselves from time to time and self-reflect so we can evolve."
The play sets the classic myth in contemporary characters with a modern idiom, to invest the classic prototypes with instant recognition for us as moderns. Anthropologists affirm that civilization started in Africa; therefore, in "Kane and Habil at the Pizza Parlor," the First Family is an African black family. It's set in a pizza parlor because that's where working class folks meet. In such places, people also eat a facsimile of the original flat bread, which is a powerful symbol in this play. The rest of the piece derives from interpretations of the creation story that go rather beyond the simple reading of Genesis. Mystics from different creeds maintain that Eve didn't encounter a snake, but rather a white fallen Angel stricken by her beauty. From this union, Eve had two white children (Kane and his twin sister Lebuda) and from her union with the African Adam, she had two black children (Habil and his twin sister Quelmina). Adam is represented in the play as an absent father, too busy naming the things of this world to raise his kids. Eve populates the world with joy and gusto, but all is not well in her very first family. Kane is jealous of his brother Habil, incestuous with his sister and eager to own everything. Lebuda's clock is ticking and she is determined to have a child with Habil, regardless of Kane's resentment. Habil is a poet, vain and naive. Their conflicts are mediated by a benevolent guide named Assistant. He serves a Creator called IT, but this underling is not a strong enough father figure to prevent catastrophe. The protagonists are left to their free will, which results in a fratricide that foretells our collective history, marking us to this day. The Chorus speaks and sings, clarifying the situation and bringing wisdom to all.
The style of the piece borrows from realistic, symbolic and Artaudian acting and makes extensive use of a chorus with African rhythms.
The production marks a return to the theater of author/director Serge Ernandez, who grew up in Toulouse, France. He earned an MA in French Literature at Universite de Toulouse and studied at Institut des Sciences Politiques there. After being an activist in France from 1968 onward, he left the country in the mid-70's to join The Living Theatre, became a company member and toured in "The Money Tower" and "Seven Meditations on Political Sado-Masochism." These plays were part of the Living Theatre's "Legacy of Cain" series, dealing with the judgment and punishment that followed the biblical character, and they were formative to Ernandez, artistically and thematically. Following his three-year tenure with the Living Theatre, he left to study pre-med at University of Vermont (Burlington) but left there to study Chinese Medicine. He eventually earned a degree from New England School of Acupuncture and is now an acupuncturist, homeopath and herbalist. Ernandez has returned to the stage because he regards it as a healing place that can reactivate symbols in peoples' unconscious (a process he refers to as Jungian). To-date, he has written six pieces based on archetypal myths: three screenplays, a teleplay and two stage plays. His next piece will deal with the theme of Orpheus.