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Kelly Aliano

Brotherly Hate and Love


“Kane and Habil at the Pizza Parlor" -- (L) Kofi Boakye as Habil, (R) Doug Chapman as Kane.

January 18 to January 27
La MaMa (The Club), 74A East 4th Street (between Bowery and 2nd Avenue)
Presented by La MaMa
Fri-Sat@ 10:00 PM, Sundays at 5:30 PM.
$18 general admission; Box office (212) 475-7710, www.lamama.org
Reviewed by Kelly Aliano January 26, 2013

How is our lineage, our ancestral past, to blame for our current predicament of pain and suffering? This question seems to be at the heart of “Kane and Habil at the Pizza Parlor,” written and directed by Serge Ernandez and currently playing at La MaMa. In this work, the original sibling rivalry is put on stage. Cain and Abel, now known as Kane and Habil, are once again at odds with one another, though this time with a few twists. The concept behind this play—a modern take on the classic Bible tale—is brilliant and relevant, despite the fact that, at times, the execution leaves a bit to be desired.

Emily Alpren (L) as Lebuda, Sheila Dabney (R) as Eve.

In this rendering, Kane is the white man and Habil, the black man. Kane scrambles to own, to possess, as much of the land and its riches as he can. Habil, on the other hand, can simply delight in the wonders of the world without needing to take ownership over any of it. This conflict over who owns what, with particular emphasis on inheritance from Adam, is the first seed of their conflict. These two men begin as charming pals, sharing an afternoon in a pizza parlor. By the end of the play, they have argued and fought and Habil has once again lost to his jealous brother. Kane is left to grapple with the weight of what he has done, the scars he has left not only on himself but on mankind.

Doug Chapman (Kaine) looks on as Kofi Boakye (Habil) and Emily Alpren (Lebuda) discuss populating the world.

And yet, this description does not do justice to the actual play itself. Ernandez’s imagination in this presentation of the story allows for Eve to play an active role in the undoing of her sons, as well as Kane’s twin sister, Lebuda; both women give love and intensify the hate that Kane has for Habil. Most ingenuous is the inclusion of the “Assistant,” an intermediary for this play’s take on the G-D figure, simply known as It. The Assistant is pizza purveyor, Kane’s confessor, and judge for justice in this play. His presence is the most compelling aspect of this work’s cast of characters.

Despite the cleverness of how the characters of Kane, Habil and the Assistant are presented, in general, the play could benefit from simplification. It felt, at times, that certain scenes were unnecessary or belabored points made more compellingly elsewhere, especially in instances where the action did not center around the two main figures. In addition, there were moments where I, far removed from any religious education and somewhat unfamiliar with the source material, felt as though the play was assuming we would already know the facts of the original, and was therefore lost. Still, the storytelling was sound and the themes and concepts presented, especially those regarding the source for racial tensions amongst human beings, resound with significance.

Doug Chapman (Kaine) chokes Kofi Boakye (Habil).

The play’s greatest flaw comes through in production, as opposed to narrative. The performances, generally, are good, full of life and energy. The presence of a chorus of two, however, often breaks the action and feels unnecessary, as it seems the Assistant already acts as both the voice of the Almighty and as the intercessor for the audience. In addition, there are long and seemingly unnecessary blackouts between scenes and disorienting lighting choices throughout. Actors seem a bit misplaced in their costumes at times and although the stage is strewn with pizza boxes, neither the existence of nor meaning behind the pizza place setting are not quite clear throughout the performance.

Still, the overall here is quite strong. “Kane and Habil at the Pizza Parlor” forces its audience to look familial animosity and racial tension in the face and view their own complicity in them. This play may be interested in exposing a potential source for this love lost—the white man has too long strived to own the land and all its products and therefore exploited his black brother in order to do so—but it does not claim that such tension is part of the past. Rather, it places this conflict in the familiarity of the present to remind the audience that we, like Kane, must continue to fight through our pain so that someday we, too, might come to love.

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