BWW Reviews: Engrossing, Impressive, Compelling COCK at Dobama
Definitions for the word cock include: an arrogant person, an adult male chicken who often controls a territory, a device for regulating flow, a hammer in the lock of a firearm that insights action, to tilt to one side, and is slang for a penis. All of these explanations are relevant to the development of Mike Bartlett's brilliantly conceived script, COCK, which is now being performed at Dobama Theatre.
The story centers on John, ironically the only person in the script who actually has a name, though he is also the only person who does not have the ability to identify who he is. John is in a long term relationship with M, but seemingly doesn't know why. He meets W, a divorced woman who is willing to accept his bisexuality. This creates a love triangle, with John as the fulcrum, which has to be dealt with. But John is paralyzed by indecision, and becomes a self-volunteered pawn in a battle for his affections. His conflict is not over whether he is gay, straight or bisexual, but who of, "Who am I?" Interestingly, we don't know enough about John's background to understand why he becomes frozen when self-responsibility and decisions have to be made.
As the characters are revealed, the title of the play becomes clear. M, John's arrogant stock broker partner, controls the roost, his expensive condo. He regulates all within that territory, including John. M incites reactions in John by belittling his handsome boy toy and playing on John's lack of ability to make decisions that would change the status quo. Everything is tilted in M's direction, including their love making. Controlled, that is until W enters their lives.
Bartlett sets up the play as a battle. Corey Atkins, the play's director, takes that lead and places the action in a theatre-in-the-square, with the audience on all four sides, much as in a boxing match. The characters each sit at a corner of the stage, like fighters about to enter the ring. Both M and W often circle John and each other, sparring for an attack position, hoping for a knockout.
Atkins' direction is meticulous. He understands the script as well as how to bring out its concepts and undercurrents. Each character is clearly etched, the play is well paced, and pauses are wisely used to highlight the action and inaction. He creates scenes where nude observation and even copulation take place while the participants are fully dressed and don't even touch each other.
Handsome Andrew Gombas is both physically and emotionally perfect as John. At one point in the action, W asks John what is his best feature. He answers, "my eyes." Yes, Gombas's eyes are amazing. When he is unable to make a decision, he is like a deer caught in the headlights. His huge eyes become blank, unmoving. He stands frozen, unblinking. He becomes completely mesmerized. His mouth freezes in a straight line, unable to open and speak. His anguish becomes the audience's anguish. When he does speak, there is strain and anguish in his voice. This is a very impressive performance.
The dark haired, sensual Drew Kopas, as John's lover, M, gives a textured performance. Slightly effeminate in his actions, his underlying attack dog emotional swings, of strong negative devices to control John, balanced by his desperate desire to hold on to the boy for whatever reason-pride, needing someone to control, love--are fascinating to observe.
Lara Knox, as W, is appealing and creates a woman who is compassionate, yet, one can only wonder what motivates her to want a man unable to make a decision or a commitment. Is she, in fact a female cock?
Bob Keefe creates in F, John's liberal and affirming father, a man who has M's best interests at heart, but may, as W points out, have an ulterior motive in wanting John around.
Their clothing is ingeniously integrated into each character's persona. The whippet thin M wears high fashion skin tight shirt and jeans, creating not only the picture of a well-dressed gay man, but one who desires to create the perfect image that is reflected in his condo and his beautiful boyfriend. John's clothing, on the other hand, is bland, slightly oversized, creating an illusion of someone who desires to draw no attention to himself or his body, who wants to be swallowed up.
W's sensual red dress, accenting her physical endowments, parallel's M's wardrobe in an attempt to create a character of sensuality. F's tweedy appearance enhances his liberal professorial persona.