3:00pm & 7:00pm
Tuesday @ 8:00pm
Wednesday @ 8:00pm
Thursday @ 8:00pm
Friday @ 8:00pm
Saturday @ 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Duke on 42nd Street
Directed by: James
Cast: Jason Butler
Harner, Amanda Quaid, Cory Michael Smith and Cotter
The most intense,
riveting and engrossing play of the season has
opened and—shocker—it is not on Broadway
where non-musicals happen to be thriving (happy
shocker) but instead--at a smallish, round and
fairly uncomfortable theatre easily lost in the
42nd Street tourist madness. There a truly remarkable
work is being performed by truly gifted artists.
The play has a title that even the New York Times
refuses to print (come on Gray Lady—get
with the Times—oy!). That title, COCK, has
a number of different meanings—not strictly
limited to the one that refers to a part of the
The cast is small—four
actors. The set…well, there is no set--there
is barely room for the actors to maneuver around.
Strike that: there is just enough room. There
are no props or costumes and all of the sex and
nudity is simulated. Yet it happens to be one
of the most erotically charged works I have seen
in a very long time.
The story is ridiculously
simple. Young buck, John and his older boyfriend
have a falling out and he meets a woman whom he
begins having feelings for. This triangle is the
basis for the drama that unfolds. I say drama,
yet COCK is an incredibly funny play as well.
I found myself bowled over in hysterics by many
of the line deliveries. But it’s the type
of humor that comes from the actors portraying
the reality of the situations they find themselves
of John Schlesinger’s seminal 1970s film,
Sunday Bloody Sunday, COCK isn’t
afraid to comb the depths of what makes its three
main characters behave the way they do and desire
what they desire. All three have so much at stake,
yet two of them seem to be wholly at the mercy
of John. And, John relishes his power and is repelled
by it as well.
He knows he holds
all the cards but seems to have no clue what to
do with them. John is a perfect embodiment of
this new, confused and uncertain generation where
decisions are made by not deciding.
At one point, early
on in the play, M goes off about how he feels
rejuvenated after having been hit by a car. John
is gobsmacked as he knows if the same thing happened
to him his reaction would be one of devastation.
“I’d be liquid.” It’s
in this moment John’s jealousy takes over.
How dare M feel this way when he cannot. How dare
he FEEL when he cannot.
COCK is masterfully
directed by James Macdonald, who allows quite
a bit of physical contact early on and then, more
sparingly, to great effect. He also uses a bell
(like in boxing) to signal the end of each scene.
brilliant scene has John and his new lady having
sex for the first time and we watch them start
out far apart and walk in spiraling circles as
they get closer and closer to one another and,
verbally, achieve their goal. This verbal physicality
seemed to also comment on just how disconnected
we have become with one another in these last
few tech-obsessed years.
the theatre space as if it were the Roman Coliseum
where audiences used to gather to watch people
fight to the death—and in many respects
John is fighting for his life. For his sanity.
For his right to choose to be who he is—even
if who he is remains uncertain—a work in
progress—even if he cannot commit…decide…and
may never be able to.
A London import,
COCK is now cast with four amazing American actors,
doing spot-on British accents.
The great Jason
Butler Harner (so creepily good in Clint Eastwood’s
Changeling and so diametrically different
and equally good in last year’s film The
Green) goes deep inside the insecurities
that ravage his character, known only as M, and
exposes the lustful desperation lurking underneath
his withering pride and his claims of love.
As the ‘other
woman,’ Amanda Quaid is a powerful force,
willing to fight for what she wants—almost
more interested in winning that in realizing what
the prize is and that it may not be what she was
Cotter Smith (so
good in Next Fall) deftly plays a character
brought in by M as a final ditch effort to manipulate
what he cannot control.
And at the quite-literal
center of all the chaos is the perfectly pompous
John who, in a revelatory performance by Cory
Michael Smith, forces the characters (and the
audience) to take a good look at the way they
look at the archaic black and white notions of
sexuality as well as love. Does John even know
what love is? He certainly seems to have a great
love of self. Smith’s cocky, assuredness
with M is contrasted with his doubt and meekness
with W. He likes playing both roles and probably
would continue if his two lovers weren’t
trying to force a decision.
kind of character that would probably love to
find a clone of himself to have sex with but would
then be repelled by him the next morning—until
it was time to have sex again.
Smith is absolutely
astonishing as John. It’s difficult to take
your eyes off him when he is onstage—he
has the type of riveting magnetism rarely seen.
He is quite simply the theatrical find of the
One of the many
bizarre joys found in this delightful and too-brief
(90 minutes) evening of theatre is in watching
the audience member’s reactions. You can’t
avoid it considering the space and lighting. And
it sometimes adds a needed respite from the searingly
honest and painful souls laid (metaphorically)
bare on the stage below.
Duke on 42nd
Street | 229 West 42nd Street, Manhattan
(646) 223-3010, dukeon42.org.