Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

The Players Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of West Side Story

Joshua Brin and Chris Hines
Photo by Val Silver
The Players Theatre is presenting Cock, a play by Mike Bartlett in its Backstage at the Players Theatre series. I had read about this play when there was an Off-Broadway production in 2013 and found the premise intriguing. I find it a fascinating play, with multiple layers of themes around the subjects of relationships, sexuality, and making choices. It is the kind of a play that is ripe for deep discussion afterward.

Cock is about two men in a long term relationship. The younger one, John, strays, having a sexual encounter with a woman closer to his own age which becomes more than just a fling and forces a showdown between the male and female over John. The format of the play is five short scenes with John and M, his male lover, in which M learns of the affair. This is followed by five scenes between John and W, the woman, even though the actions of these scenes took place before the actions of the first five scenes.

Then the showdown is depicted in three scenes at a dinner party where M invites W thinking that there will be no contest for John, but just in case, he has invited his father, F. The contest for John is not one sided as both M, with help from F and W, pressure John to decide who he and what he wants. Part of this battle is defined as choosing his sexuality, not a comfortable concept for me because I believe my sexuality was defined at birth, but reasonable in the context of this play. All of the short scenes suggest a boxing match or cockfight, and in fact, the play is staged inside a ring of chicken wire to further this concept.

Michael Newton-Brown directs his cast well, capturing the important emotional forces that are at the heart of the play. Joshua Brin as John is a bit of cypher at first, completely appropriate because the character really is two different people with M and F, never strongly defined by his own choices. Chris Hines as M has the stronger power position in his relationship with John, he is more financially successful and much more self-assured. He also physically inhabits the role well. Casey Kelley is an almost perfect W, feminine but not glamorous, a woman who might appeal to a man who has previously identified as gay. Neil Kasanofsky brings warmth and fatherly concern to F. All of the acting is good community theater level, but I can also imagine the play with more incisive, explosive acting.

The sets and costumes are not credited in the program, but both are assets to this production.

Anyone looking for a provocative evening is urged to check out Cock Backstage at the Players.

Cock through November 22, 2015, at The Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL. Box Office (941) 365-2494. For more information visit

Cast: John: Joshua Brin, M: Chris Hines, F: Neil Kasanofsky, W: Casey Kelley

Directed by Michael Newton-Brown

Crew: Stage Manager: Sara Logan
Lights/Sound: Seth Berry
Technical Director: Ken Junkins
Asst. Tech Director: Alyssa Goudy

--William S. Oser

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