Review: Antihero Cocks

Cock. Photo by Adrián Morillo Cock. Photo by Adrián Morillo

I saw Cock on opening night and Playshed’s opening offering is a turgid look at the evolution of sexual identity in post-80s Act-Up Western context. In a world where (a lot of, but not all) people are celebrated and supported in coming out, how do you deal with a possible shift in sexual identity, or dealing with the fact that you may not at all fit into any commonly accepted definitions and that the rush to place a label on your desires is in fact a toxic exercise and infinitely limiting? There is a lot that we do not know as of yet about sexuality and the play doesn’t necessarily answer all the questions. What it does beautifully is show that the science is supremely unimportant when it comes down to it, and the desire for nice clean cut lines and answers is damaging, even though it makes things simpler.

At it’s heart, this is the story of a love triangle between three pretty horrible people. John, the man with questions about his identity, leaves a long term relationship with his boyfriend, and while he single, he meets a woman who shares his route to work. They in turn, develop a sexual relationship that excites him in only the way that only a new discovery can. In a panic, he goes back to his ex, but at the same time, he cannot stay away from his new girlfriend. And so, what to do? He has to make a choice. Comfort in the sameness of what he has known, in his established life and identity or a break and transition into a heterosexual lifestyle. The fact that they are horrible is just icing on the cake.

Cock. Photo by Adrián Morillo

Cock. Photo by Adrián Morillo

Because, the fact is, the boyfriend is controlling and abusive, the girlfriend is painfully grasping onto straws despite reality, and John is completely unwilling to take on any responsibility. They are not monsters, and in different moments, you empathize with all three, but in the end, these are not heroes. I think that this is just life, and the script truly is brilliant in its refusal to sugarcoat what people are like in these flawed times, and shows what drives them. What limits them.

The staging is stripped down, simple. I am very pro the choice to have not done a British accent in this clearly British play, as it would simply have acted as a distraction. Notably, the sex scene is staged beautifully, but I found some of the apartment scenes in the second half to be a bit lacking in precision and I question the set pieces, as I don’t see how they add to my understanding. The actors are all fantastic, working with a difficult and fast-paced script that does not really follow normal speech cadences. But these guys are professionals, so I am not that surprised.

Cock. Photo by Adrián Morillo

Cock. Photo by Adrián Morillo

This show really impressed me. This is not fluffy theatre, and it took me a few days of thinking about it before I could write about it. The company’s choice to open with this script demonstrates a maturity of approach. It’s not an easy work, but it’s accessible, and I think it would be a great date show because it will make you think, about relationships, about sexuality, about choices that we make and identity. It’s a winner for me and I look forward to this company’s future offerings.

Playing now at the MAI (3680 rue Jeanne-Mance), playing from now until February 14, tickets 17$-28.50$, for more information click here.

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