Onstage: Cock

Know Theatre has opted for quality rather than quantity in its productions this season. It’s following the highly regarded When the Rain Stops Falling with its second show, Cock by Mike Bartlett, ma

"Cock" at Know Theatre of Cincinnati
"Cock" at Know Theatre of Cincinnati

Know Theatre has opted for quality rather than quantity in its productions this season. It’s following the highly regarded When the Rain Stops Falling with its second show, Cock by Mike Bartlett, maintaining a similar high level of material and performance. 

In fact, Know’s upstairs performance space has been physically reconfigured to resemble an arena for cockfighting: three steep tiers of chairless seating on opposite sides of the room, surrounding a “pit,” its floor smeared with bloody red paint. At the open ends are two-person benches plus suspended gongs to mark the “rounds” of combat, each prefaced by a blaze of lights. Director Brian Robertson has the actors circle, grasp and stab at one another in motions not unlike battling roosters.

The combatants in this contest to sexually possess John (Darnell Pierce Benjamin, in a nuanced, tormented performance) are humans, of course. The title’s layers of meaning underscore the clash of intimate relations: John separates from his unnamed gay partner, played with devilish snarkiness by Kevin Thornton (familiar to Cincinnati Fringe audiences as a singer and monologist, but not as an actor). On an unexpected rebound, John takes up with an attractive young woman, similarly unnamed, portrayed with sincere charm by Danielle Knox.

Cock, presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through May 11. knowtheatre.com.

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