Reviews Theatre

A Los Angeles Theatre Review: ‘COCK’

This marks my second NOC Theatre review since Hannah and the Dread Gazebo performed at the Fountain Theatre a few months back and it was here that my key interest in doing so was a commitment/announcement of sorts. For as much as I can, my focus will be to review plays & musicals with the qualifying criteria that the director, writer, and/or one of the main cast members (not supporting/ensemble but one of the leads) MUST be a non-white artist. The more PoC in the cast/production team, the better I’ll want to review it as I’ll give a glaring stink eye to all things tokenism.

75362269_10157623008636870_5246134485698740224_o
And it is here that I will be covering Cock, a provocative piece written by Mike Bartlett, directed by Michael Yavnieli, and produced by the Crimson Square Theatre Company that is currently playing at the Beverly Hills Playhouse till November 17.

I was especially intrigued by the casting of one of the main leads, Gavin Lee, who just so happened to have played Dang in the Fountain Theatre production of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo. This is a highlight worth mentioning as I am a raging advocate of PoC actors being cast in non-traditional roles and, thus, a pleasure to see Asian American actors rock the British accent, as Lee did here. But first, about the play:

First performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2011, Cock is the tale of a gay man torn after meeting and falling in love with a woman. Visceral and funny, the play tackles thorny issues rarely seen onstage. Its honest and straightforward exploration of bisexuality suggests that gay or not, people fall in love with those who can give us happiness.

Directed by Yavnieli, the first immediate thing the audience will be struck by is that absolute bare nature of the stage with four clear chairs that are spread throughout. Despite the absence of props, it does not detract from the performances of the four actors who do a tremendous job carrying this play.

miles.jpg
Miles Cooper as John

Miles Cooper is our anchor as John, the man torn between his male partner and the woman he has fallen in love with. As the actor who carries the unenviable task of playing such an extremely indecisive (and rather unlikable for that reason) character, Cooper is able deliver in the amount of depth he carves into his character as he deals with a tremendous amount of loneliness and agony. It is a notoriously difficult part to guide through and Cooper does that with ease. Whether the audience can be sympathetic or even understand his plight, that will be the ultimate question.

DSC01947.jpg
Gavin Lee as M

Lee plays M, John’s partner, and the one who must deal with the main lead’s indecisiveness and shocking life decision. If Cooper’s John is that of the brooding, agonizing essence, then Lee’s M is the opposite. Lee does a tremendous job avoiding the traps of the stereotypical jaded lover being unsympathetic and unlikable, to the point that it can be argued if he could be the protagonist. M is certainly no a pushover and Lee gives gravitas, wit, and charm in his stance that can, in many instances, be more relatable to the audience than the main character himself.

caroline.jpg
Caroline Gottlieb as W

Caroline Gottlieb is W, the woman who unfortunately had to fall in love with someone who cannot make up his mind, gay or not. Like Cooper’s John, Gottlieb also has the difficult task of taking yet another rather unlikable character to a sympathetic degree. While Gottlieb is an outstanding actress and creates a character that holds her own to the best of her abilities, W unfortunately is not portrayed in a favorable light whatsoever, especially near the end of the play. It is in aspect that I’ll address later on in the fault of the writing that the worst character is that of the woman. This is no fault of Gottlieb however as she does a fantastic job giving the character substance and humor where she can.

Rob.jpg
Rob Ryel as F

Last but not least, we have Rob Ryel as F, M’s father. This character comes in late to the play but once he does, he is a striking contrast to the rest of the cast in that the character is that of the working class background, his Cockney accent a drastic contrast to the rest of the more posh, mainland dialects the rest of the cast speaks in. He is easily the most likeable character in the play as he loves his son dearly and does his best to understand the situation that John is in. Ryel plays the role with such lightness, so likeable and cheery in his disposition, that his positivity (along with his accent) seems to be that of a Mary Poppins-esque character as he brings much brighter lightness compared to the broodiness and angst from the rest of the characters in the play.

FB_IMG_1573162367704.jpg

The huge positive I can give for this play is the direction as well as the acting. But now I’ll need to dish out the biggest criticism I have for this (as mentioned earlier with W) and that is of the writing itself. It is an extremely unsympathetic story that does no favor not only for the main lead but for the sole female character who is written in a manner that her haughty behavior simply comes from the fact that her biological clock is ticking and cannot waste any time on men who can’t make up their minds.

But this play makes no attempt to progress John’s journey, he is as stuck as he is in the end as he is in the beginning. Why any female character would be written to stick around with an idiot for so long despite the many red flags blaring off is a mystery to me and probably countered with “Well Actually, There Are Many Women Who Fall For Indecisive Guys In Real Life” arguments. It is in that similar light that I found it hard to personally care about John or W because there is no redeeming quality to them other than the fact that we need to be possibly feel sorry for John because he simply cannot make up his mind and for W because she is running out of time.

DSC02012.jpg
Which is why I will argue that M, or at least Lee’s portrayal of the character, presents strong evidence that he is the protagonist we can root for. Not only does he start the play with the first line but he also ends it as M does his very best to care for his partner who not only cheated on him with a woman but someone who. Just. Can’t. Make. Up. His. Freaking. Mind. It is in that light and with the strength of Lee’s acting that he is able to lift an unlikable character on page into someone we can root for. It’s not an easy feat when you’re not exactly the main lead of the play but Lee does it and it is for that reason alone I would recommend folks in Los Angeles to watch this play. As for the unlikable nature of the writing itself, I welcome any feedback in those who find it to be not so bad as I had a hard time stomaching it.

I sound like I’m pretty harsh on this play and I am. It’s a pretty (here comes the broken record) unlikable play. But this is not the fault of the actors or the director as they do their jobs with aplomb.

Cock runs till November 17 with performances on Fridays & Saturdays 8pm and Sundays 7pm.

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.crimsonsquare.org
Phone number: 323-348-4979

Beverly Hills Playhouse
254 S. Robertson Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: