Mike Bartlett’s new hit play COCK is featured in the New York Post. Theatre critic Elisabeth Vincentelli talks with director James Macdonald and cast members Amanda Quaid and Cory Michael Smith about the play.
You don’t need to take your clothes off to have a good time
By Elisabeth Vincentelli
As we embark on what promises to be a long, hot summer, it seems fitting to revisit one of the steamiest moments of the theater season.
“This is one of the most graphic sex scenes that’s ever been written for the theater,” says James Macdonald, who directed Mike Bartlettt’s ”Cock” in London and now here. He’s referring to the episode when John (Cory Michael Smith) and W (Amanda Quaid) have sex for the first time. And get down to business they do, despite some jitters on John’s part — he’s cheating on his boyfriend, and has never been with a woman before.
But while this takes place in a 42nd St. theater, don’t expect to be brought back to the Deuce’s glory days: The dialogue may be uninhibited, but what makes the scene so intense is that the actors remain fully dressed. They don’t even touch much as they slowly circle each other — according to the director, “we treat the audience as being grown up enough to imagine things.”
Quaid liked the fact that “the script stipulates that there’s no miming and no furniture, so I knew there couldn’t be a bed, sheets, or clothes taken on and off. It’s the scene that made me want to do the play.” (Macdonald says that in the play’s second production, in Mexico, the actors did take off their clothes.)
Her co-star agrees: “The complexity of that experience would be lost if it was just watching two people try to engage for the first time,” Smith explains. “It’s like two swans flapping in the water, trying to figure out what’s going on. The verbal aspect is necessary.”
It’s an approach that puts “Cock” out of step with the zeitgeist. “Our culture associates sex with images, with nudity, or with looking at people’s bodies,” Quaid says. “Here the audience has to focus on sex through sound.”