Pit & Balcony Explores Circles of Deceit and the Ballet of Betrayal in THE COCK FIGHT PLAY

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   From Issue 880   By: Robert E Martin

05th June, 2019     0

In playwright Mike Bartlett’s inventively engaging work The Cock Fight Play, audiences are intimately drawn into a verbal ballet of deceit, confusion, confession, and betrayal between three characters involved in a romantic tryst with a man torn between two lovers and two corresponding sexual identities, who literally and figuratively go around in circles.

Throughout the duration of this captivating 70-minute production, staged ‘in the round’, with the audience seated upon the stage in a circle around the actors, the set is based on a cockfighting ring, giving the audience a birds-eye view in a series of tense face-offs as lovers rotate, eyes locked, and attack with words instead of beaks.

As part of Pit & Balcony Community Theatre’s innovative After Dark Series, this intensely riveting production will be staged Thursday, Friday & Saturday, June 20-21-22 at 8:30 PM.  Directed by Chad William Baker, the strong and impressive cast consists of Nathan Hanley in the lead role of John; Jonah Conner as the character ‘M’; Madeline Paxon in the role of ‘W’; and Dominic Pnacek as the Father ‘F’.

The narrative centers around the character of John, who has been in a stable relationship with his boyfriend for a number of years. But when he takes a break, he accidentally falls in love with a woman. Torn between the two and filled with guilt and conflicting emotions, he doesn’t know which way to turn. His boyfriend is willing to wait for John to make his decision; but so is his girlfriend - and both are prepared to fight to keep him. As the pressure mounts, a dinner with both parties is arranged and everyone wants to know: who is John? What is he? And what will his decision be?

With dialogue that is sharp, witty, and focused, Bartlett wrote The Cock Fight Play in 2009, where it was performed on the British stage in the West End Theatre district of London. It then moved to Broadway in 2011 and was written specifically to be performed ‘in the round’.  Indeed for the Pit & Balcony productions, 100 audience members will be allowed at each performance and seated onstage, surrounding the actors, with no set, props, or lighting, allowing the audience to share in the immediacy and face-to-face intimacy of the actors as they engage with one another.

“I first read this play when it was first published and have never seen it performed,” notes director Chad William Baker. “Initially I had a hard time with it because there are no stage directions in the entire show, just lines of script, which allows the actors and director to make the show their own - whatever they want it to be.  Bartlett guides you with the outcome of the show, but the motivations of the characters are left to us to figure out, which is an exciting thing.”

“It’s one of the best written shows I’ve ever read,” confesses Chat. “Bartlett has done another show called ‘Bull’, which is similar stylistically and concerns businessmen butting heads about business - so one of his plays is a fight over relationships and the other is a fight over work; and then he also wrote ‘Love, Love, Love’, which was Off-Broadway not too long ago and follows a family from the 1970s and ‘80s to the present. He was also on the short list for the Pulitzer Prize for writing King Charles III, which imagines the future when Prince Charles becomes King after Queen Elizabeth dies. He’s a young playwright in his late 30’s, I do believe.”

“Structurally, what I like about this play is that in the first part  we are introduced to John and his boyfriend, only we don’t know the boyfriend’s name - he is referred to simply as ‘M’,” explains Chad. “They have an argument that leads ‘M’ to think their relationship is about to be over. John cheats on ‘M’ with ‘W’, the woman he ends up with later, only we see no interaction with ‘W’.  In the second part of the play, all the interactions are with ‘W’, so the audience can see what happens when John is not with ‘M’ - this way we see how he operates with each of them separately and how he is being honest or dishonest with each of them - the way he manipulates them.”

“Basically, John is someone who can't stand up for himself,” continues Chad. “We see through these interactions that he can’t be honest with himself, either. So in the third and last part of the show, M invites W over to a dinner party to fight it out and see who John will choose; and John invites his Father over with him as a back-up.”

According to Chad, auditions for this play were strong and he had many options for all the characters. “We provided monologues for the audition with no stage direction and had a great turnout. Each actor that auditioned was not afraid to attack the monologue and do what they do.  In terms of interpretation of the characters, I have my ideas and figured out certain things, but am not fully sold on any of them, so I told the actors if they feel they want to portray their character in a certain way that fits with the flow of the show, I’d be open to it.”

As to whether any of these seemingly amoral characters have any redeeming attributes, Chad has formulated some valid thoughts on that topic as well.

“I feel the character of John is just lost and drifting. He can’t be honest in any relationship because he’s not honest with himself,” reflects Chad. ‘M’ and ‘W’ both want to help John, but both attempt to help him in ways that benefit themselves - maybe more so than would benefit John. That’s where I think they get in trouble - they’re looking out for themselves more than looking out for John, which is where we end up at the conclusion of the show.”

When asked what he feels audiences will come away with after seeing this production, Chad focuses upon the moral core of this contemporary morality tale. “When you first hear about this narrative you think the show is about sexuality and coming to terms with who you have sex with,” he states. “But I think the core is revealed in John’s argument that it’s not about that - it’s more about the person involved.”

At one point John states: “This changes everything about me; not just who I love or have sex with; it’s who I am. This is what I find so interesting with this production. It’s not just another one of those shows we’re doing to be controversial; it’s more about an individual making a decision that will change everything about him.”

“When people come out it isn’t simply you admitting that you love someone of the same sex, because by doing that suddenly the public admission changes everything else about you and I don’t think most people think about that very often when the topic comes up.”

Pit & Balcony Community Theatre’s production of ‘The Cock Fight Play’ will run Thursday, Friday & Saturday June 20-21-22 at 8:30 pm. Tickets are $20.00 and available by visiting PitandBalconyTheatre.com or phoning 989.754.6587.

 

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