‘Cock’ tackles personal discovery, exploration

Play will be last time Queen City Theatre Company performs at Spirit Square

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: November 8, 2013 in A&E / Life&Style, Featured Stories

From left, Glenn Griffin as ‘M,’ Kristian Wedolowski as ‘John’ and Iesha Hoffman as ‘W,’ in Queen City Theatre Company’s production of ‘Cock’ by Mike Bartlett. Photo Credit: QCTC

From left, Glenn Griffin as ‘M,’ Kristian Wedolowski as ‘John’ and Iesha Hoffman as ‘W,’
in Queen City Theatre Company’s production of ‘Cock’ by Mike Bartlett.
Photo Credit: QCTC

Now playing through Nov. 23, Queen City Theatre Company’s regional premiere of “Cock” will be the last time the non-profit theatre company performs at Duke Energy Theatre at Spirit Square.

“We’re looking for a permanent space, but that will take a year or so to settle,” says company co-founder and managing director Kristian Wedolowski.

The move, prompted in part by policy changes at the space, presents challenges, but also opportunities.

“They really wanted smaller shows, not bigger shows like ours,” Wedolowski says. “Our company has really grown a lot.”

During their growth, the theatre company, known for its productions of LGBT-themed plays and musicals, has dusted up controversy. A recent production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” garnered protests from local Catholics who condemned the production’s portrayal of Mary as a lesbian.

Wedolowski and fellow co-founder and artistic director Glenn Griffin are hoping their move will open opportunities to take their art to a broader audience.

“There are a lot of different projects that we want to focus on and not necessarily be tied to a space,” says Wedolowski. “We need to take the next step.”

The duo are most excited about what they call environmental theatre — taking the art form directly to the public.

“It will be interesting to do a lot of shows in a really specific place, like if it is a show that takes place in a bar, then actually performing the piece in a bar.”

Such performances are successful in Latin America and in Europe, says Wedolowski. “It allows you to get up close and personal with the actors,” he says.

“People do still think that theatre is this elitist form of art,” says Griffin. “It really is for everybody. Theatre is just a great way of expressing yourself and seeing what is going on in the world.”

‘Cock’ takes the stage

Queen City Theatre Company’s current production stays true to the company’s mission of exploring and grappling with real issues faced by real people.

“Cock,” by British playwright Mike Bartlett, explores what it means for a person when one is forced to go in search of self.

The play pits the main character, John – played by “Brideshead” actor Ben Winshaw when it premiered in London in 2009 – against his boyfriend and a girlfriend. John and his partner split, and he begins a relationship with a woman. Soon, John’s ex-boyfriend and girlfriend are fighting over him.

“The characters keep saying it’s not a fight over John, but that’s what it is,” says Griffin. “At one point, one character says, ‘This is the ultimate bitch fight.’”

For the main character, the battle is finding out who he really is.

“John is the only character named,” says Griffin. “The other guy is just ‘M,’ for male, and the other is ‘W,’ for woman. Here are these characters who aren’t named who kind of know who they are and yet you have John, who is named as the main character, and he has no clue who he is.”

Griffin adds, “It is this [conflict] of searching for yourself, especially later on in your life when you are a little older and suddenly having to find out who you are.”

The play itself may very well touch upon concrete questions and issues, but it is the title that has caused the most stir among the theatre-going public. At its debut in London, some balked at the name, though reaction was more negative in New York City. There, as well as in Charlotte, producers have been forced to censor the name. [Ed. Note – qnotes has chosen to use the play’s rightful name, as it was given by the playwright; this newspaper will not engage in useless censorship against artistic expression.]

Wedolowski says marketing has been a nightmare. The company has had to produce two sets of posters, ads and other materials.

“I think it’s mostly just the name,” Wedolowski says. “We’ve done controversial stuff and we’ve never faced this problem.”

Despite the marketing dilemmas, Griffin says he’s glad the company is able to host the regional premiere of the play.

“It’s written really, really well and the playwright is young, in his 30s, and he’s an up and coming playwright in Britain,” Griffin says. “When you listen to this play, it’s just amazing. It’s funny and it’s dealing with issues that are relevant today.”

The characters, he says, are not stereotypes. Griffin appreciates the playwright’s ability to round out his characters without using offensive or ridiculous tropes.

“This is a play that is new and is also dealing with something interesting, that idea of who you are,” Griffin says. “Can you be on the Kinsey scale and say you can love everybody or do have have to say you are gay or straight?”

“Cock,” currently on stage, plays through Nov. 23 at Duke Energy Theatre, 345 N. College St. For more information on performance times and for tickets, visit queencitytheatre.org. : :