What if Cain hadn't been able to kill Abel? Or what if Adam hadn't taken Eve's tip on chomping into the forbidden fruit? In a theatrical event that's more ceremony than play, Jean-Claude van Itallie's The Serpent asks these questions, using tales from Genesis to examine humanity past, present, and future. The piece, presented in S.F. by the new local theater company Ragged Wing Ensemble, uses the Bible as a jumping-off point, then adds 20th-century figures like JFK and MLK and not-so-biblical places like Cleveland and New York City. First produced by Open Theater in 1967, The Serpent won a Village Voice Obie; it was radical enough in structure and content to elicit all sorts of critical acclaim, but you don't see it produced a whole lot these days. Ragged Wing's vision of this poetic ritual involves movement, masks, and puppetry, taking us back to the Garden of Eden and moving us forward into an uncertain future, asking: What have we done with our stolen knowledge? The Serpent opens this weekend at 8 p.m. (and continues through Feb. 19) at the Eighth Street Studio, 2525 Eighth St. (at Dwight), Berkeley. Tickets are $10-20; call (510) 527-8119 or visit www.raggedwing.org.
-- Karen Macklin
The relationship between a mother and the person she hires to care for her children is unavoidably fraught with complications. It also makes a fascinating template for drama -- and comedy. But for those unsatisfied by the ridiculous behavior lessons of television's Supernanny, we suggest ACT's American premiere of Hilda, by the French-African playwright Marie Ndiaye. The first staging of the work in its new English translation, the production uses straightforward language to examine the labyrinth of contemporary class divisions present in most mommy-nanny scenarios. Ndiaye, a multiple award-winning playwright in France, treats her subject like a psychological thriller, rather than the family-values dreck it might have been. Previews begin Friday at 7:30 p.m. (and performances continue through Feb. 26) at the Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), S.F. Admission is $12-24; call 749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Rockabilly queen returns
Legend has it that back in the 1950s, Elvis Presley and Wanda Jackson were friends, both calling themselves country singers. After his conversion to rock, Elvis told Wanda, "You should do what I do." At the time, she's supposed to have said no. But at some point the young Jackson let loose, and she quickly became known as the Queen of Rockabilly. Her snarls and hiccups, combined with a high, clear voice that can switch from sugar to ice in a matter of seconds, continues to define the sound of that genre. The Cadillac Angels open (and then back Wanda up) at 9:30 p.m. at 19 Broadway, Broadway & Center, Fairfax. Admission is $20; call 459-1091 or visit www.19broadway.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Tickling the Ivories
Nothing gets a jazzbo's foot tapping like a shot of swinging boogie-woogie, so expect the joint to be jumping at the Boogie Woogie Piano Summit, two evenings of keyboard-pounding flourishes from artists like Steve Lucky, Mr. B, and Wendy DeWitt, both nights at 9 (and again at 11) at Jazz at Pearl's, 256 Columbus (at Broadway), S.F. Admission is $15; call 291-8255 or visit www.jazzatpearls.com.
-- Joyce Slaton