A three-way affair in Manbites Dog Theater's Cock | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

A three-way affair in Manbites Dog Theater's Cock 

"You have to make a decision." That's the refrain everyone offers to John (Phil Watson), the cripplingly indecisive protagonist of Mike Bartlett's Cock, now playing in a production directed by Jeff Storer at Manbites Dog Theater.

The decision facing John, the play's only named character, is the choice between a life with his longtime boyfriend, "M" (Gregor McElvogue), or his female lover, "W" (INDY contributor Emma D. Miller).

Cock stages these relationships, and the ups and downs experienced as John jumps between one or another, as a series of cockfights—literally in the form of a circular ring on the stage that acts as the only set, with a ringside bell that marks the beginning and end of each scene. Presented in the round, the characters circle each other, approaching and retreating as they trade barbs and insults.

The show's stripped-down aesthetic means the intensity must be borne by the actors, who don't even have costume changes to hide behind. John's passivity could threaten to make him bland and forgettable, but Watson grounds the character with a childish insecurity masked by humor that, while making him obnoxious as a life partner, turns him into a lovable if pathetic theatrical presence. McElvogue's bullying boyfriend, meanwhile, dominates from early on, even as his deep layers of vulnerability gradually bubble to the surface in what turns out to be the play's most affecting performance.

Miller's W is the least neurotic of the bunch, confident and sure-footed, though hints of her own insecurity are evident throughout. The only character who gets short shrift is M's father, "F" (John Honeycutt), who appears late in the action and is not given enough time to act as much more than a plot device.

John interacts with his two lovers separately throughout the first half of the play, but the second half is an uncomfortable dinner party where everyone comes together to hash out their differences and battle for John's love. The production loses some steam in this stretch, partly because Bartlett's characters indulge in a long debate about the utility of labels like "gay" or "straight" and their biological or social underpinnings.

It's not an uninteresting or unimportant topic, but it feels a bit editorially motivated, instead of artistically. John's vacillation is treated early in the play as a joke, and his first sexual experience with W is funny, more a consequence of John's chronic inability to understand his own needs than an exploration of the vagaries of human sexuality.

When focused on the characters, however, the play is quick-witted and filled with energy. If the ending is exhausting, it's at least in part because the characters themselves are worn out, beaten down like birds in a cockfighting ring.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Sexual perversity in the Triangle."

Related Locations

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Comments

The photo credit is incorrect. The photo was taken and edited by Areon Mobasher for Burning Coal Theatre Company. Please …

by Areon Mobasher on The Greeks Streamlines Sophocles’s Theban Trilogy Into Three Nimble, Strikingly Modern One-Acts (Theater)

I'm wondering why Dorfman specifically chose the Death and the Maiden quartet - deriving from the song Der Tod und …

by trishmapow on Forgiving is not forgetting in Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden (Theater)

Most Recent Comments

The photo credit is incorrect. The photo was taken and edited by Areon Mobasher for Burning Coal Theatre Company. Please …

by Areon Mobasher on The Greeks Streamlines Sophocles’s Theban Trilogy Into Three Nimble, Strikingly Modern One-Acts (Theater)

I'm wondering why Dorfman specifically chose the Death and the Maiden quartet - deriving from the song Der Tod und …

by trishmapow on Forgiving is not forgetting in Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden (Theater)

I'm not a theatergoer, so it was off my usual path to see this production. The small/ mighty cast approached …

by Aims Arches on A Superlative Adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando Packs Centuries of Insight into a Fleet Eighty Minutes (Theater)

I personally am remarkably intrigued to see this production but since I can't drive myself to it I will sadly …

by Ryan Oliveira on David Harrower Lives Up to His Name in Blackbird, a Challenging Portrait of Abuse (Theater)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation