A Beguiling Production of “Cock” at The NCTC

The big question in this enthralling production of British playwright Mike Barlett is whether a young man named John (Stephen McFarland) is gay or straight or even bi-sexual now at The New Conservatory Theatre Center where <i>Cock</i> is having its west coast premiere.  The 85 minute production is being in presented in the intimate Walker Theatre of the three theatre complex.

 

From the moment you enter, you know you won’t confuse this theatre with anything else.  The small space has been transformed into a cock-fighting amphitheater with rows of “couches” surrounding the level pit. The pit is covered with sand and it certainly looks like we would see roosters going at each other. There are no birds here but just two gay men and they participate in thrilling psychological lashing.

 

John is in his late twenties and he is the dubious wild card.  He has a long relationship with a slightly older and clearly manipulative lover simply named M. The relationship seems to be disintegrating.  We learn all of this in the first minutes of the intriguing drama in brief scenes separated by the ringing of bell (something like a prize fight, I would say).  These two dispute, tease, seduce and fight with repetition power tactics until John announces he has become involved with a woman named “W”.

 

W  is spirited and tenacious and realizes that John is gay but she skillfully initiates him into sex. John has become confused as to his sexuality. The playwright does not give us answers on why John now believes he could be bi-sexual.  Arriving almost at the end of the production is “M” widowed father at a dinner arrange by “M” for John and his girlfriend. The end I won’t disclose.

 

All four actors are unremitting mesmeric. Stephen McFarland as the conflicted John turns in a outstanding performance while Todd Pivetti is riveting as the calculating “M”.  Radhika Rao gives a brilliant portrayal earning understanding from the audience. Matt Weimer gives a convincing performance in this brief time in the cock ring.

 

One problem that I noticed on opening night.  Sometimes it was hard to hear the actors as they move about the pit and some of lines were not heard due to the actors not projecting.  I have to admit it is difficult to stage a production in a “theatre in the round” especially in a theatre not built for this type of production.  Hopefully it will be corrected in the future. Stephen Rupsch direction is fast and furious and confrontations between the two young men are potent.

Cock plays through October 12th at the Walker Theatre, New Conservator Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave at Market, San Francisco.   For tickets call 415-861-8972 or on line at www.boxoffice@nctcsf.org   Coming up next is Charles Busch’s Die Mommie Die