Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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NY1 Theater Review: "C**k"

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"C**k", the Olivier Award winning play from London's Royal Court Theatre is now playing off-Broadway at The Duke. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

You've heard of "the love that dare not speak its name," well we can certainly speak about that love today. But a new play bears a title that we dare not speak. Let's just say it rhymes with "rock". While that might be a turn-off or turn-on for some of you, keep in mind names - much like labels - can be deceiving. And there's a lot more to this play than the title might suggest.

Minimalist to the extreme, this British drama has neither set pieces nor props. Staged arena style, it suggests a cock-fight involving a gay couple and a woman who comes between them. Playwright Mike Bartlett is interested in the nature of relationships and the limitations of labeling one's sexuality. Some heady topics for a play with such a low-brow title, but it certainly gets your attention.

In a series of short scenes, we discover that John wants to break up with his long-time partner, simply identified in the Playbill as "M" for 'man'. Then, in a subsequent scene, John reveals to "M" that he's seeing a woman, "W", and that he can't decide between the two. The three ultimately face off in a showdown, with M's father joining in to help fight for his son.

It's a very intriguing premise and James MacDonald's intimate staging puts a laser focus on the action. A sex scene completely clothed is graphically depicted in words only as two actors circle one another.

The cast - Cory Michael Smith, Jason Butler Harner, Amanda Quaid and Cotter Smith - expertly manage both the play's intense heat and the natural humor. And while you have to applaud the pure theatricality of the work, it doesn't entirely succeed. At 90 minutes, it could stand some trimming. And talented as the actors are, they fail to convince us why John - described as scrawny and hopelessly indecisive - is worth all the fuss.

Still, Bartlett offers an engagingly unique perspective on affairs of the heart and that other part of the body.

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