Cock

Cock

Cock By Mike Bartlett
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

I’ve never wanted to actually slap a writer before, but I’d consider Mr. Bartlett for that honor. John (Chris Crawford) is a neurotic ball of indecision and general weaseliness. He’s in a long term relation with judgmental Man (Peter Travis), they share a nice flat in London evoked complete by motion and mime. John is coming out of an alternate closet and reveals his huge straight streak: He’s kissed a Woman (Heather Leonardi) and he liked it. So did she, the new pair become “A Thing” and the Man is not pleased. He rightfully demands John takes a stand: straight or gay, he’s willing to accept John’s decision if only he would make one. For the Woman, I sense she’s intrigued not only by John’s good looks but he has potential as a Project Guy, one she can remake to her own desires. Good luck, he’s cheated once and as we follow his tortured emotional path he alternately offers fidelity to one camp or the other, depending on whomever is standing closest to him. After a ton of agony the Man arranges a showdown invites the interested parties to what can only be described as an awkward and unpleasant dinner party. Just to balance things out his Father (Rod Cathey) drops by to offer the rational speech that might have saved us all an hour of indecision and laceration. I just wish John would pick something: gay, straight, bi, whatever. Just pick something, anything. Heck, make something up, and we’ll accept it.

Despite the brutal and indecisive story the acting is quite good. I love Mr. Man’s acerbic English school bully style, he not only holds the moral high ground, but he knows it and let it hiss out of his very walk. Ms. Woman was cute and sexy and vulnerable, clearly she was a keeper if only John was bright enough to realize this. Father’s appearance was a breath of fresh air; he summarized the plot, focused on the important emotional points, and was amazingly approving of whatever his son chose. In the middle of all this sensibility we focus on the prime mover of this almost drama: we almost sympathize with John, trapped in a script with vacillation his only assignment. We all wanted some sort of decision, if only Mr. Bartlett would permit it.

All this fretting and fussing fit into a simple set consisting of Tron-like patterns of blue squares and early 70’s computer styling. As the frustrated men followed the perimeter of a square or stood on circles reminiscent of solder pads on a mother board, Ms. Leonardi took a more fluid path and avoided the linearity of the male grid. Should this be noticeable? I can’t say, but while John took all our time reaching a non-decision it was an interesting staging concept to contemplate. Perhaps this is the future of drama: the fashion today tends to intermission-free one acts. Just as the post war modernists infuriated audiences with plays based on inaction and obscurity, this play infuriates with indecision and unresolved conflict. But even Godot let us get up and stretch our legs.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com

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