Weekly Adventure: Cock at Profiles Theatre

I was almost going to use a different headline for this blog post, but then I read in the program that the New York Times changed the title to “The Cock-Fight Play” (a pretty accurate depiction of this production) and the playwright Mike Bartlett thought that was absurd, and that only puritanical Americans made a fuss about the “playful” title. So I refuse to give in to my puritanical American impulse and I will (sheepishly I admit) use the real title of the play here on the blog. (Hi Mom!)

All this hand wringing about the word ‘cock’ is actually a pretty good starting place to jump into this show. The play, set in a cock-fight ring, complete with wood chips and unforgiving bleachers (the ushers hand out seat cushions on your way into the theater), centers around a man, John, played with big eyed vulnerability by Christopher Sheard, who after breaking up with his long-term boyfriend (referred to only as M or him)  finds himself suddenly attracted to a woman (Eleni Pappageorge) for the first time. His surprise and confusion leads him back to his ex (the delightfully over the top Jake Szczepaniak) and then back to the girl and then back to boy, etc. etc. After a couple of frank sex scenes that establish that John truly is attracted to both of his partners the plot quickly becomes a series of conversations in which first the girlfriend and then the boyfriend, and then improbably (but delightfully) the boyfriend’s father (Larry Neumann, Jr.) demand that John, decide what he is.

The emphasis on what rather than who was fascinating to me, the characters, and by extension the audience, and even John really, are constantly trying to pin a label onto his sexuality, but after a while it starts to feel irrelevant. As John says at some point with a hint of desperation, honestly his whole performance is essentially delivered from a defensive crouch, that it shouldn’t matter what he sleeps with but who he sleeps with, and it seems to me that most of his conflict isn’t sexual at all, but that he has absolutely no sense of who he is as a person separate from either of these partners.

Obviously the play raises a lot of questions, and it’s one of those that I really wish I had gone to with a group, because I really wanted to turn to someone at the end and say, “wait, what just happened?”

The show runs through April 6th at Profile’s Theater Main Stage at 4139 N. Broadway Ave

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