The Serpent

By Jean Claude van Itallie in collaboration with The Open Theater

Directed by Chris Holcom

Extended! Dec. 8 – 17, 2006

Fri. – Sat. 8pm, Sun. 4pm

Tickets: $15.50

Shimberg Playhouse, Straz Center for the Performing Arts

The Serpent is a poignant, provocative parable which takes its cue from the legends about Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel and traces the legends backward, forward, and sideways to track a path through existence. Alternately, the parable is fierce and funny, myth and reality, and mingled with contemporary experience.

This brilliant and fascinating Obie award-winning tour de force in experimental and improvisational theatre explores the Book of Genesis, and relates it to our modern experience with an eloquence and power which have earned it recognition as a milestone of American drama.

Most of the work is choreographed movement, pantomime, human sounds and music. Abstract representations of political assassinations (Kennedy, King) and detached monologues diagnose America as a sick society of lonely individuals weakened by war and turmoil.

The Garden of Eden, complete with the Serpent itself, is van Itallie’s meeting place connecting the fall of modern society to the fall of Adam and Eve. Van Itallie suggests that society can heal when we “revisit” the Garden of Eden and recover our collective lost innocence through hope and connectedness with ourselves and with one another. Written in the 1960s, this sentiment is as relevant as ever in today’s society.

Van Itallie’s work is precise and engaging. Overlapping dialogue, experimental bodily gestures, and fragmented plot structure accurately reflect the societal malaise to which van Itallie refers. His creative use of actors as inanimate objects, as the collective voice of God, and as the Serpent itself stunningly implicates man as a powerful force capable of goodness, evil, and the transcendence of both. His work is neither idealistic nor cynical. Van Itallie tells a new story through narratives familiar to us all; he touches the collective unconscious of the audience to force us into both personal and political consciousness.

The Serpent is responsible, well-written, and relevant art. In 2002 Jobsite produced van Itallie’s ritual The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as part of TBPAC’s Art and Spirituality Festival where it enjoyed a sold-out run and was honored as one of the 10 best plays of the season by Weekly Planet.

It is an exceptional play, imposing, yet informal, continually surprising, and, to me, profoundly disruptive emotionally.

David Valdez and Grace Santos Feeney in Jobsite's The Serpent.



Slithering on the Stage – Creative Loafing

Cast & Crew

  • Chris Holcom – Director


  • Curtis Belz
  • Alex Crow
  • Jaime Giangrande-Holcom
  • Christen Hailey
  • Alvin Jenkins
  • Caroline Jett
  • Grace Santos Feeney
  • David Valdez


  • Ami Sallee – Sound Designer
  • John Lott – Light Designer
  • Brian M. Smallheer – Set Designer
  • Katrina Stevenson – Costume Designer

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