Theatre: Joseph Joins the Cast of ‘The Serpent’ For its LA stage Revival

Joseph joins the cast of The Serpent, directed by Ron Sossi, for the Odyssey Theatre’s continued retrospective from their rich history and first 50 years of ground-breaking, and experimental performances. Joseph is excited to return to Odyssey Theatre having last performed in The Hairy Ape, directed by Steven Berkoff. 

Jean-Claude van Itallie

Directed by:
Directed by Ron Sossi
Produced in Association with Isabel & Harvey Kibel

March 7 – April 26
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA. 90025
Imaginative, perceptive and entertaining, The Serpent is a celebration of life as seen through the Book of Genesis.

Jean-Claude van Itallie wrote The Serpent (in collaboration with Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theater) in 1968, when anything seemed possible–especially revolution, both cultural and political. Experimental theater of the time was drunk with alternatives, eager to raise the consciousness of a young and angry generation desperate to rethink everything from the bottom up. It was also a year when a lot of dreams, right or wrong, died hard–in January, in the massive Tet offensive; in April, with the death of Martin Luther King Jr.; in May, in the streets of Paris; in June, with Robert Kennedy’s death; in July, at the Democratic convention in Chicago; and in August, in the streets of Prague. A whole new world of violence seemed to have been unleashed.

Inspired by Chaikin, van Itallie felt free to employ a host of unconventional theater techniques based on improvisation and mime. Out of this organic trial-and-error, show-and-tell process the Open actors created some potent metaphors, images that would reflect the outrageous nightmares, follies, and afflictions of “Amerika.”

The Serpent attempts to examine some major-league questions: Why do people kill one another? Where does evil come from? Is any claim to innocence still possible in our contaminated world?

Van Itallie’s strategy, such as it is, is to go back to the Bible. But characteristically his route is not direct. At its best The Serpent reminds us of a plight we can’t escape; that we’re caught in the middle, neither as innocent as we pretend nor as guilty as association with such a foul planet suggests. So many choices have been made that we weren’t in on, and as the playwright points out most of us refuse to blame Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel. But a quarter century after the play was written much of it seems faux-naif, willfully credulous in the arrested-childhood manner that characterized my fellow hippies.

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