Declaring Independence With Indecision
By Lizzie Simon
August 27, 2012
Each week in Curtain Raisers, we invite a local theater artist to attend a show of his or her choosing and discuss the results. On Sunday, actor Adam Chanler-Berat opted to see Mike Bartlett’s Olivier Award-winning “The Cockfight Play,” directed by James Macdonald, at the Duke at 42nd Street. Mr. Chanler-Berat’s credits include Broadway’s “Next to Normal” and the 2011 revival of “Rent.” He’s currently starring in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a prequel to the classic Peter Pan story.
When “The Cockfight Play” was over, Adam Chanler-Berat realized that its main character, John, was essentially a contemporary version of the one he was currently playing on Broadway: Peter Pan.
“The central dilemma of this play,” he said, “is a boy who is not willing to grow up.”
The similarities don’t end there. As Mr. Chanler-Berat observed, both shows rely on the simplest of stagecraft: “The Cockfight Play” is staged in the round with no set, while “Starcatcher” relies on a veritable junkyard of do-it-yourself props. “The only tools they had were their bodies, their voices and their language,” he said. “In ‘Peter’ we celebrate the same things.”
But while one show is absolutely appropriate for children (“Starcatcher”), the other is absolutely not. (In fact, the actual title of the “The Cockfight Play” is one unprintable syllable contained therein).
Name issues aside, “Cockfight” is a relationship drama about an ambivalent young man, John (Cory Michael Smith), who unexpectedly falls in love with a woman, W (Amanda Quaid), while on a break from his beloved boyfriend, M (Jason Butler Harner). John is caught between two loves, unsure of his true identity, and M and W spend much of the play trying to clobber him out of his indecision.
Mr. Chanler-Berat had more empathy for John than the character’s two lovers seemed to. “He’s prideful of his youth, but it’s debilitating,” he said. “They talked about honesty a lot but the whole idea of honesty became unclear. What is honesty? Is it something you create? Is it something imposed on you?”