Los Angeles Theater Review: COCK (Rogue Machine)

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by Tom Chaits on September 18, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

HARD DRIVING COCK GOES DEEP

Love may be “a many-splendored thing” but as Pat Benatar sang it’s also a “battlefield.” In Mike Bartlett’s Cock, making its Los Angeles premiere at Rogue Machine, the gloves are off and all the players come out swinging. For a riveting non-stop 90 minutes they counter and torment each other in a Chroma Key-green cockfight arena scarred with black claw marks (scenic design by Stephen Gifford).  All the more remarkable is that there isn’t a prop in sight, proving once and for all that with great writing, acting, and directing, furniture and set pieces are not needed.

Rebecca Mozo and Patrick Stafford in the Los Angeles Premiere of COCK by Mike Bartlett at Rogue Machine.

John (Patrick Stafford) is a sexually ambiguous millennial who strays from his abusive homosexual relationship with the older M (Matthew Elkins) to experience a more nurturing affair with W (Rebecca Mozo), a female in his own age bracket.  Is John gay, straight, bi or simply confused? Furthermore, in today’s more permissive and accepting society is it even necessary to attach a label at all? Can any one person meet all the needs of another? Why do we love the ones we love?

Matthew Elkins and Patrick Stafford in the Los Angeles Premiere of COCK by Mike Bartlett at Rogue Machine.

Bartlett’s brilliant script does a great job of addressing all of these questions and dives deep into the truth of what it is to love and be loved without becoming preachy or condescending. With the exception of a mercifully brief sojourn into scientific proselytizing (it’s in the genes), the British playwright sticks to the human needs of the characters whatever their sexual proclivities might be. He even explores unconditional parental love when he introduces M’s father F (Gregory Itzin) into the arena during a pivotal dinner scene where the quartet basically consumes one another as the main course.

Rebecca Mozo and Patrick Stafford in the Los Angeles Premiere of COCK by Mike Bartlett at Rogue Machine

Under the masterful direction of Cameron Watson, the audience is kept on the edge of their seats throughout as he meticulously allows the story to unfold in a continuous choreographed dance of emotion. The characters hardly ever stand still. They circle and taunt like Sumo wrestlers preparing to pounce. They’re roosters at a cockfight carefully waiting for the right time to make the fatal strike.  When the action and dialogue become sexually charged, Watson never allows the lovers to touch. The restraint ratchets up the heat index tenfold and is exhilarating to witness.

Rebecca Mozo, Patrick Stafford, Matthew Elkins, and Gregory Itzin in the Los Angeles Premiere of COCK by Mike Bartlett at Rogue Machine.

The cast benefits greatly from Mr. Watson’s expertise. With his help they all deliver fully realized portrayals that ring true at every turn. There aren’t enough expletives in the English language to do justice to the performances given by Mr. Elkins, Ms. Mozo and especially Mr. Stafford. They are mesmerizing to watch. Mr. Itzin plays the proud and protective papa with keen aplomb.

If you are hungry for great theater you can’t go wrong with Cock.

Patrick Stafford and Rebecca Mozo in the Los Angeles Premiere of COCK by Mike Bartlett at Rogue Machine.

photos by John Flynn

Cock
Rogue Machine
Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd. (west of La Brea)
Sat at 5; Sun at 7; Mon at 8
scheduled to end on November 3, 2014
EXTENDED through November 16, 2014
for tickets, call 855-585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Analise N. Taylor September 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

I definitely want to see this. Thanks, Tony!

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