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The acting in this show is so superb that the audience is easily taken beyond shallow superficiality and plunged into the depths of this examination of love.

Theater Review: Cock

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Second Thought Theatre | Directed by Alex Organ

Bryant Hall at Kalita Humphreys Theater

 

"Just stand there and let me have a think of this all through."

 

The lines are drawn (both literally and figuratively) in this witty comedic script by award-winning British playwright Mike Bartlett in which the boxing-ring bell punctuates each new 'match' and the interrogation-style spotlights serve to humorously illuminate what might otherwise remain darkly suppressed and unexamined issues of love, intimacy, and self-preservation.

 

John and his long-time boyfriend are "fundamentally different people" (reverently portrayed by talented regional actor Justin Locklear along with Broadway and off-Broadway actor Blake Hackler, respectively). Insulting jabs are thrown under the guise of a sibling-like relational bond (all in love, elbow poke, "like a brother"), and amusing sarcasm develops as an accepted way of restricted self-expression. Eventually, at the end of several ritually monotonous (nevertheless emotionally-draining) years, the pair split up and John subsequently finds himself in a romantic relationship with a woman (esteemed local actress Danielle Pickard) although simultaneously drawn back to the familiarity of his former affection. Bringing a liberal dousing of fuel to the proverbial fire is John's boyfriend's father (veteran theater and opera performer Robert Ousley) who arrives to assist in the hashing out of things.

 

"It's a halo of disorganization, and I love it."

 

The tangled mess of John's multi-dimensional tug-of-war is mimicked by the casual gray outfit he wears. It stands in juxtaposition to the stylish attire of both devoted love interests who are neatly dressed in black and white as if to indicate a more defined sense of clarity in direction and purpose. The unnervingly bare stage setting is completely free of traditional props or any significant scenic elements, thereby providing a vacant arena in which all expected platforms on which one might lean for comfort have been stripped away. Patrons peer downward onto the action from observation deck-style seating as powerful feelings, intense reactions, and unanticipated considerations are hurled throughout the empty space.

 

"You see what I'm getting at? Glass house, yes?"

 

The performance of each of the actors in this show is so superb that the audience is easily taken well beyond shallow superficiality and plunged into the depths of this revealing examination of romantic love and its many complex ramifications. Character strengths and weaknesses are intermittently revealed through wavering decisions about when to stay and when to go, when to hang on and when to let go. Altruistic tendencies give way to protective self-obsession with the insistence that others conform to predetermined standards without heartfelt deference to individual best interests.

 

Attempting to sort out the dynamics surrounding the often elusive dividing line of ideal life balance, the story is far less concerned with sociopolitical rhetoric and much more focused on the overwhelming personal identity crisis that many have faced (or will face) in one season of life or another. It progressively becomes less about what one wants in a lover and much more about what one wants in a partner in general.

 

"You can't even bear the question, let alone the answer."

 

Despite its sensationalistic title, there is next to nothing physically vulgar about this production; visually graphic content is virtually non-existent (save one ardent kiss). The intriguing and cleverly-written dialogue is much more provocative than any of the physical actions. In many ways, Cock is not about sexuality at all; but is rather an essential and comically insightful look at what makes us fall – and stay – in love.

 

Cock runs at Second Thought Theatre through February 22, 2014 with pay-what-you-can performances on Monday evenings. For tickets and more information, see details below.

Second Thought Theatre

Information: Second Thought Theatre

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Second Thought Theatre strives to enlighten and entertain audiences by pushing the boundaries of human thought and emotion.

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