“Cock” – A Review

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by Peter Foldy

An impressive cast and a talented director bring the provocative, award winning playCock” to life at the Rogue Machine Theatre on Pico Blvd in Los Angeles.

Written by Mike Bartlett, “Cock” tells the story of a young man named John who has been living with his male lover, “M” for the past seven years.  Their relationship is passionate and comfortable, though “M” often belittles John and they ultimately break up, though neither expects the separation to be permanent.

The Cast of "Cock"
The Cast of “Cock”

During their time apart, John meets a young woman named “W” and much to his surprise, they become lovers.  The fact that he is able to perform sexually and even enjoy this new relationship with “W” puzzles but pleases John and before long he realizes that what he has with his new female companion is perhaps more gratifying than his life with “M.”

“W” also falls hard for John and the couple soon starts planning a life together, despite the fact that John is not entirely sure this is what he really wants.  Though he has enjoyed his flirtation with heterosexuality, he seems to be missing “M” and their life together.

“M” feels great pain at having lost John and invites him and “W” to dinner, surprising them with the fact that “M’s” devoted father, “F” will also be joining them.  “F” is a traditionalist who initially had trouble accepting his son’s sexuality. In his day men were put in prison for being homosexual but he has had to come to terms with “M’s” lifestyle, and now “F” wants only one thing.  For his son to be happy.  He has shown up at the dinner with a low-keyed determination to keep John and “M” together.

Rebecca Mozo and Patrick Stafford in "Cock"
Rebecca Mozo and Patrick Stafford in “Cock”

There are no sets or props used in “Cock.”  The production utilizes only a small, circular stage where the action unfolds.  The audience sits looking down at the performers, much as they would at a boxing match—or a cockfight. This tight environment creates considerable intimacy.  The actors pose, prance and spar, circling each other as they face off, the words, all delivered with a UK accent, roll out of their mouths like kicks to the groin or stabs to the heart.

As the often humorous dialogue drives the action forward, the emotional stakes keep mounting.  At times “W” seems to have the upper hand, calling “M” and “F” out on their hypocrisy, all the while John’s confusion growing deeper.

The question is can we blame John?  Does a successful sexual encounter with the opposite sex make a person one thing or another?  Does one really need to choose a lifestyle based on that encounter?  Should anyone even care?   The characters in “Cock” certainly do, and for ninety minutes on opening night, so did the audience.

Only a highly talented group of actors could deliver the play’s potent message, and the cast at the Rogue Machine is all of that and more.  They manage to bring heart and pathos to this psychodrama, making the audience relate to their struggle–perhaps even find a connection with at least one or more of these characters.

Patrick Stafford as “John” is both fragile and vulnerable as he navigates the emotional minefield he is forced to cross. Through John’s surprising discovery Mr. Stafford let’s us witness his second coming of age and the angst that accompanies it.

Mathew Elkins, (also a producer of the play), as “M” is quirky and manipulative as the jilted lover.  Elkins finds a strong balance between being somewhat campy and being the adult in his relationship with the younger John.  His strong ability to deliver comedy is a source of considerable laughter in the piece.

Rebecca Mozo is powerful as “W,” perhaps the most grounded of the characters.  Mozo transitions nicely from the young woman who, like John, is also experimenting, to a woman in love, determined to keep her man.

George Itzin shows up in the latter part of the play and brings an understated performance as “F.”  Though he does have a dog in this fight, Itzin is the chosen arbitrator of the conflict and manages gives “F” the ability of underhanded manipulation, making that his weapon of choice.

Cameron Watson’s fine direction drives the piece at a clip while maintaining its clarity.  The ninety minutes fly by and you almost wish you could see what happens after the curtain goes down.

Technical credits are impressive.  Jared A Sayeg’s creative lighting design is a useful tool in telling this story.  Stephen Gifford’s scenic design is bold and well compliments the set up.  Kudos also to Kate Bergh’s costume design and Christopher Moscatiello’s sound.

As the promo material states, “Cock” has no intermission, no retreat and no surrender.  It’s a play that is well worth checking out.

COCK

Rogue Machine Theatre

5041 W. Pico Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90019

 Reservations: 855 585 5185

 Opened: September 13, 2014

Schedule: 5 pm Saturdays, 7 pm Sundays and 8 pm Mondays

(No performance on 10/20, 11/2)

Closes November 3, 2014

 $30.

www.roguemachinetheatre.com

Photo Credit: John Flynn