Cock: A Sexually Charged Story Without Onstage Sex

Categories: Theater

cock_gablestage_credit_george_schiavone.jpg
George Schiavone
GableStage's production of Cock contains what might go down (pun intended) as the most arousing sex scene you'll see onstage all year. Except you won't actually see it. Contrary to the expectations of its saucy title, Cock is chaste as can be. Physical contact is limited to the occasional embrace of hands in this rendition, and even those moments seem to defy the strict orders of UK playwright Mike Bartlett.

There are no props, and nobody mimes his actions. There is only one sound effect. Three of the characters don't even have names. The set is a purely abstract space, hardly reflective of the kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, cafés, and subway stations where the action takes place. This is theater of the mind, a play that would sound minimalist even on the radio.

But you could almost feel the entire auditorium grow a few degrees hotter during the play's central sex scene between John (Ryan Didato), an ostensibly gay man escaping a fractious relationship with an older partner, and "W" (Julie Kleiner), a pretty 28-year-old divorcée with whom he strays. Bartlett permits us to hear their thoughts as heterosexual coitus commences, a first for John. The actors describe their actions in vivid -- but not pornographic -- detail, culminating in an orgasm. All the while, the actors circle around one another, less like humans caught in a moment of passion than animals engaging in a pre-mating ritual. Eventually, they stand side by side, staring at us, their arms never leaving their sides. Technically, a child could watch the scene and be none the wiser to what he just saw, but adults will want a cigarette after it's over.

Cock is an electrifying exercise in audience imagination; we're often asked to literalize what we can't see, to create our own imagery from the ethereal metaphors percolating in its empty spaces. The magical balancing act between emotional openness and physical prohibition is vital to this challenging, self-reflexive play, produced with superb and creative direction by Joseph Adler. Removing from the actors' toolboxes the natural tendency to embrace, to kiss, to shove, to throw each other to the floor in anger or lust, Bartlett and Adler somehow render these movements unnecessary. The actors' delivery and the lucidity of our own imaginations render unnecessary the crutch of physical contact.

John and "M" (Nicholas Richberg) live together, but it's not always a happy coupling. They clearly love each other, but they fight a lot, locked in unhealthy patterns of dominance and submission. They're the kind of opposites who attract; their polarized personalities are best expressed in John's theoretical scenario of a knife-wielding man on the street: "You will step toward him, and I will walk away," he says.

Continue reading "Cock at GableStage: Sexy but Subtle."

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GableStage at the Biltmore

1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables, FL

Category: General

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