Also see John's review of tick, tick ... BOOM!
Despite the seemingly lascivious title of the play, it is far less about sex or sexuality than it is about stumbling through life with a lack of self-awareness, and the potentially painful repercussions of prolonged indecision. It seems John's choice is between a relationship that, though familiar and dependable, is laced with tension, or a new, seemingly happy relationship fraught with fear of the unknown. The tension of the first relationship is largely born of John's failure to consistently define himself and his wants and needs within that relationship. Ironically, while he has found happiness in his new relationship, it would require defining himself on a whole new level as it redefines his sexuality. Unfortunately, John seems to define himself by his relationship, and how happy he is with it at the moment. Since no relationship is happy 100% of the time, he will always have moments of wanting something or someone else; in those moments of wanting he loses his sense of self. While he wallows in self-pity and indecision, his two would-be partners wait on pins and needles for an answer. Though neither are bad people they are placed at odds with one another, sparring for John's affection as earnestly as opponents in an emotional boxing match.
The set appears to be a modified boxing ring, or perhaps a ring in which a cock fight is conducted. When actors are not in the scene at hand, they take a seat upon dimly lit benches as if they are fighters waiting to re-enter the match. Pacing is furiously brisk at the top of the show, settling to a more comfortable speed shortly after. Nicholas Richberg as John's boyfriend has a deliciously dry sense of humor. His oft-times sarcastic delivery is spot on, and his character work in this role is quite wonderful to watch. One wonders why a man of his wit and intelligence would be with John who is clearly not his equal, mentally or emotionally.
Ryan Didato faces a challenging role head on. How difficult it must be to play indecision on such character-defining issues for an entire piece. How long can we go on identifying with a protagonist whose emotionally childish behavior hurts the other main characters? If the end result is that his John is questionably likable then he has done his job. It is because he is so believable that at the end of the play the audience is nearly screaming "For God's sake make up your mind!"
Julie Kleiner's character is a breath of fresh air compared to the tension created by the two men. She is neither na´ve nor dumb, simply choosing to believe in the honesty of her feelings for John and his for her, trusting in the outcome despite his past. Though she is the only actor whose accent wanders, there is a welcome lightness to her portrayal that keeps the mood of the play from being too dark.
Direction by Joseph Adler wisely stays away from just playing the anger in this show, as it could easily be all about raised voices and sullen glares. Though this production is well done and provides interesting character studies, the author's commentary on romantic relationships and the human condition is neither happy nor hopeful, so you may want to skip bringing a date.
Born in Oxford England, playwright Mike Bartlett is currently Associate Playwright at Paines Plough. In 2011 he was writer-in-residence at The National Theatre, and in 2007 he was Pearson Playwright in Residence at the Royal Court. Theatre. His play Love, Love, Love won Best Play in the 2011 Theatre Awards UK. He received the Writers' Guild Tinniswwod and Imison prizes for Not Talking and the Old Vic New Voices Award for Artefacts. He is currently under commission for Headlong Theatre, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Hampstead Theatre and The Royal Court Theatre.
Cock will be appearing at The GableStage through June 16, 2013. The GableStage, formerly known as the Florida Shakespeare Theatre, is a professional theatre presenting classic and contemporary theatre year round. They are members of the Theatre League of South Florida, the Florida Cultural Alliance, the Theatre Communications Group, SouthFloridaTheatre.com and the Dade Cultural Alliance. The GableStage hires local and non-local Equity and non-union actors and actresses, and is involved with the educational community in promoting educational theatre programs. The GableStage is located in the eastern section of the Biltmore Hotel, at 1200 Anastasia Avenue, in Coral Gables, Florida. Valet parking is available, or free parking is available in the Biltmore parking area west of the hotel. Performances are 8 pm Friday-Saturday, 2 and 7 pm Sunday. For tickets and information you may reach them at 305-445-1119 or online at www.GablesStage.org.
*Indicates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.
Photo: George Schiavone