by Louise, Community Manager
The name may make you blush (it makes me blush) but don’t let that stop you from going to see Cock, the new Off Broadway production written by Mike Bartlett, now in previews at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street. I just saw this show and spent most of my ride home staring pensively out the subway window, reflecting on it.
The Duke has been set up to look like a cock-fighting arena, with five rows of seats arranged in a circle around a small, round area that serves as the stage. There is no set and there are no costume changes; the actors let you know where they are and what they’re wearing in any given seen through their dialogue and interactions with one another – and it works. Much of the time the actors are slowly circling the stage, facing each other, much like they are about to start fighting at any moment. The scenes end and begin with a bell, letting us know that the “round” is over. The simple production allows you to look past the superficial aspects of the experience the characters are having – what the dining table looks like, the color of the sheets on the bed, the food they are eating – and focus simply on the conflict at hand.
And the conflict has the complexity of a thousand complicated set dressings. The main character, John, finds himself in love with two people at once – his long term boyfriend, and a woman he recently met who has caused him to question his sexual identity. John’s boyfriend forces the issue by strong-arming John into arranging a dinner with him and the woman, and then to make matters worse, invites his father to join them. What results is emotionally charged, excruciatingly awkward, at times extremely funny, and totally riveting.
While we may never have been in a position where we had to choose between two potential life partners – one from each gender, no less – we have all been in situations where we have a choice to make that we feel will affect our entire identity, and if we choose wrong we’ll no longer be ourselves. That’s what makes this play so relatable, even if you’ve never struggled with your own sexuality. There is a moment where John rightly points out that one’s entire identity should not be tied to sexual orientation the way it seems to be, which is absolutely true, but in that moment he is also telling us that his choice is not between the man and the woman, his choice is much deeper than that. And that is an internal conflict to which we can all relate.
Strong performances are given by every member of the four person cast, who do a spectacular job remaining fully committed to their performance despite being able to see and hear essentially everything the audience is doing. I’m not an actress, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how distracted I would be by everyone. It’s such a huge risk going out there every night knowing that if you disappoint the audience you’ll definitely be able to tell, and that gives this play an extra level of intensity too. The characters are bearing their souls, but so are the actors.
For a unique theater experience I highly recommend seeing Cock. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or for customized travel packages including tickets to the show!