Key West, Key West FRINGE, Play, TSKW

Cock – a Play by Mike Bartlett – Love, Power & Sexual Preference


Key West FRINGE and TSKW have created a successful partnership, each bringing their own critical perspective to produce Cock, an award-winning play by Mike Bartlett.  I decided not to read anything about the play before going. I wanted to enter fresh, unbiased.

A true battle of and between the sexes utilizes unexpected weapons. In a play called Cock we expect the least threat to come from a woman.  W (for woman), played by Nicole Nurenberg, initially seems an innocuous contender for John. But the audience and M (for man), played by Dave Bootle, underestimate her at their own risk. She gains in power to the degree that John  invests it in her. But it is always the beloved who has the most power, or so we think.

Is this true? Who holds all the cards. Is it the conventional longing for home and children and even >gasp< Christmas? Or are we drawn more to the urbane, the longing to reach beyond the conventional.

More about power than love, both contenders for the beloved’s attentions gain or lose stature to the degree that they allow John, played by Michael Castellano to grant or deny them his love and surrender to their vision.



The dynamics of the performances are enhanced by the visual geometry of the staging. Murphy Davis, Director, informed me that playwright, Mike Bartlett, wrote it to be enacted in a theartre-in-the-round, which TSKW has faithfully replicated.  This style enhances vulnerability; the actors are forced to abdicate control over how they are seen and the audience is granted an intimate, nuanced view of the characters from every angle.

M represents the (now) conventional gay alpha male in a long-term relationship in which he appears to hold all the cards. He has the prestigious job, the fabulous apartment, the acerbic wit and even enhanced culinary expertise. But as so often happens in love, all this is no match for the confused unformed and unfulfilled partner, AKA the beloved, or object-of-desire.


Another visual pleasure is the physical manifestation of the emotional triangulation the characters experience. Often, in corners, the feel of a fight ring is further enhanced by scene changes announced by striking a gong,to introduce another round (of fighting).


Does the empty vessel hold all the cards? Is sexual orientation inherent? Why do we endure the humiliation of allowing others to dictate our fate?


Sometimes this play reads as a kind of Woody Allen meets Lois Malle and frustration mounts – just make a decision already, get on with it. But the circular notion of relationships are never that simple and this piece refuses to make do with easy solutions.

Enter F (for father) who has come to terms with his son’s sexual choices and articulates what got him there. Played by Mike Mulligan, he expresses another aspect of powerlessness, provides comic relief and adds to the discussion.


Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of this piece is that if no one is spared, neither is anyone’s vision easily dismissed. A friend, George who was also at this preview said, “Of all the characters, I’ didn’t expect to like her (W) the best.”

I agree, W came on slowly, a dupe who got ensnared in a male dance, but Bartlett refuses to victimize her and she reads as believable and important. In fact, the sex scene between W and John was extremely moving, and all done without actually touching each other. Thus proving once again that the  most powerful sex organ is between the ears.  And yes, I felt the shock of fresh sexuality between them.

In fact that is another strategy of this work – the characters use no props, the stage is bare, dialogue is all.  And each actor   skillfully propels the movement forward.

So don’t come expecting fanfare and a cabaret, readily available all over Key West.  But if you are interested in exploring the fascinating aspects of love, power, and sexual identity circa 2013, this one may have your name on it.

I have heard moaning about paying $35 to see the play, but off-Broadway plays cost $100-plus so I truly hope that Key West will step outside the usual fare and sample some of our best actors in a thoughtful and riveting performance at TSKW.

Show runs Weds through Sat evenings, Dec 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11, 12, 13, 14. Evening performances begin at 8:00pm, Saturday matinee on Dec 14 at 2:00pm. Opening night sold out.


For details and to purchase tickets, please go to TSKW 










2 thoughts on “Cock – a Play by Mike Bartlett – Love, Power & Sexual Preference”

  1. The staging alone makes this play intriguing to me. I love it when The Work is The Thing–here the words and the actors. And, whenever you are tangling with The Other, whoever that may be, all material things fall away anyway and it’s just words and people. Sounds great! I hope to see it.

  2. JANET HINKLE says:

    Saw COCK last night and your review nailed it….I too avoided reading anything about the play…wanted the material to be fresh and unbiased…I think I want to see it again…always enjoy your blog posts….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *