Tuesday, May 21, 2013

GableStage: Cock (6 reviews)

GableStage opened its production of Mike Bartlett's award-winning play Cock on May 18, 2013.
A provocatively titled play about an unlikely love triangle that was a huge hit in London and New York. When a gay man takes a break from his boyfriend the last thing he expects is to suddenly meet the woman of his dreams. Filled with guilt and indecision, he decides there's only one way to straighten this out. A playful, candid look at one man's sexuality and the difficulties that arise when you realize you have a choice.
Joseph Adler directed a cast that included Ryan Didato, Julie Kleiner, Peter Galman, and Nicholas Richberg.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Describing the overarching quality of the newest play at GableStage as “taut” is rather like calling a tax audit “worrisome.” Neither word fully does justice to the swirl of complex emotions each is meant to summarize. Certainly, that’s true of Mike Bartlett’s provocatively titled Cock, which is meant to evoke a ferocious cockfight -- and more.

The actors stalk and circle each other but almost never come into physical contact. Yet their the in-the-moment descriptions of sexual experiences are vividly evocative, despite the fact that no one sheds so much as a shoe. Getting theatergoers to “see” and feel what the characters are going through is an act of collaborative imagination, one pulled off brilliantly by director Joseph Adler and his excellent cast.
Didato is appealing and empathetic in a role that might otherwise grow wearisome because of John’s waffling indecision. And, like his cast mates, he sports a convincing, unwavering British accent. Kleiner, though dressed in an oddly dowdy fashion by costumer Ellis Tillman (he makes the guys look much better), glows in the role of a young woman who probably ought to give more thought to her choice of mates.
Richberg is, simply, superb. As is often the case, the actor crafts a performance that is utterly convincing, complex and always compelling. His M possesses a quick, withering wit, a weapon he’s quick to wield in asserting his dominance over John. He’s amusing, at times bitchy, and he makes you see why M frustrates John. Yet when John cuts M to the quick, Richberg’s thrumming fingers and the set of his mouth signal his pain in a way that suddenly deepens an already rich play. Bravo. 
Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Cock... is filled with opportunities for characters to get naked, and GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler is known for getting his actors to show a substantial amount of skin on stage.  Instead, characters stay completely clothed and engage in a version of oral sex — in this case, describing their sex acts aloud — while practicing the restraint of hardly touching at all.  And guess what?  It’s sexy.  It’s very sexy.
As John, Didato embodies the character’s confusion as well as insecurity.  Kleiner does well with her role of the everywoman fighting for her happily ever after. Peter Galman is funny and touching as John’s boyfriend’s father, who comes to dinner to help his son fight for John.

But the standout here is Richberg, who imbues his character with texture and soul. Even though John is the character in conflict, John’s boyfriend, in Richberg’s capable hands, is the one who seems to go through the most changes. Sometimes he’s catty, hateful and venomous, and sometimes he’s insightful, loving and vulnerable. Sometimes he oppresses, other times he seems the real victim of the piece. And Richberg’s performance is riveting.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
Last night I dreamt about cock. No, silly, not the appendage. The brilliant play Cock playing now at GableStage. Brilliance does that. It takes a little power nap right in your brain and then, snap, it's driving your dreams.
Ryan Didato as the young John never falls into the trap of annoying 'will he won't he' as he discovers his bi-sexuality; his pain as he seeks his place is real. His is a terrific performance in a difficult role.

Not that the others get to cruise. Julie Kleiner as the divorced and lonely W who falls in love with John brings an almost desperate sensuality and the scene in which she and John consummate their affair screams lust discovered without a trouser dropped or a dress hiked high.

Peter Galman as F brings everything you'd expect from an actor with his vast experience to a role smaller than the others but no less demanding.
But it is to Nicholas Richberg that the chops award must go. His abandoned lover, M, has the pettiness and the bite of a scared man, losing everything and knowing that the material offers no solace. 
And tying this together is the outstanding direction of Joe Adler who brings out the tenderness of the obscenity laden, starkly sensual and very funny script.
John Thomason reviewed for The Miami New Times:
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.
But you could almost feel the entire auditorium grow a few degrees hotter during the play's central sex scene...
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.
Adler's cast is uniformly excellent, all of them Americans speaking with unflagging British accents. Didato makes his character's confusion, indecision, and repressed torment palpable, and Kleiner, though not necessarily resembling Bartlett's buxom, ultrafeminine creation, excellently captures W's warmth and sensitivity as well as her hidden feistiness and well-masked insecurity, even when she seems to be winning the competition for John's affections.

But it's Richberg who towers above both in a bravura performance of a man who is both dastardly manipulative and magnetically attractive. He finds humor in hurtful lines while capturing the vulnerability hidden beneath moments of brash bluster, rooting out all of the hidden meanings.
There is no logical way for Cock to end happily, and Bartlett deserves credit for not scripting a Hollywood ending. John's fateful choice is important, but his decision is less vital than the greater points Cock raises about the increasingly amorphous nature of sexual attraction and gender identity — about the outmoded status of orientations and pigeonholes, of even such a seemingly encompassing label such as "bisexual."

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...Adler has gathered a first-rate cast and orchestrated them to razor-sharp perfection. While they work as a well-balanced ensemble, Richberg manages to stand out with the bitchy spin he puts on each acidic line reading. Didato, so impressive as Mark Rothko’s assistant in Red, shows here that he has the skill and range for a sustained career in the theater.

Kleiner shows she can handle herself in this heady company, even if W is essentially a pawn in this battle. And Peter Galman injects himself capably into the fray as M’s father (yes, known only as F).
  Ron Levitt wrote for ENV Magazine:
...an intelligent, astutely directed production with some of the finest  acting seen in South Florida in many years.
This is Joseph Adler’s 92nd production at the Biltmore site and his adroit direction is apparent as the four actors dominate the stage.  It is by no means a simple reminder of why Adler has the most production and directing Carbonells  of anyone else in South Florida.  Once again, his mark of excellence is apparent.
...let us heap praise on both Didato and Richberg....  Richberg is truly brilliant as the deeply hurt partner – joining with the superb performance of Didato as the confused John – a frustrated fellow who doesn’t seem to know what he wants.
Kleiner... and New York actor Galman are up to expectations in their supporting roles, as well.  Adler obviously chose this cast with care.  It would be half as much fun in lesser hands.
Cock plays at GableStage through June 16, 2013.

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