Monday, November 4, 2013


A one-act black comedy electrifies at Know Theatre

      Know Theatre presented Cock in the spring to deserved acclaim and the follow-up Bull, also written by Mike Bartlett and directed by Brian Robertson, opened this weekend.  Cock centered on the competition for love, whereas Bull focuses on
keeping a professional position in a bear economy.  It’s an intense, fifty-minute one act, set on a thrust space that works as both the upstairs lobby of an office complex and a high tech boxing ring.  Robertson and designer Andrew Hungerford have cleverly dropped furniture and props so that the audience’s attention remains unwaveringly on the actors.

Dylan Shelton and Kate Glasheen
     The strong cast includes Jay Stratton as the upper class Tony, an English version of the elegantly sly creep Aaron Eckhart played in the movie In the Company of Men, Kate Glasheen as Isobel, prepared to play the gender card to get ahead, Dylan Shelton as Thomas, the sensible, vulnerable audience stand-in sinking in the amoral quicksand of the musical chairs situation, and George Alexander as Carter, the boss who will decide which of the three will be fired.  Glasheen, an adjunct professor at CCM, nails the slipperiness of her character through playing with her accent.  She can chat with Tony on his level and Thomas on his by varying how she speaks and the terms she uses.  It’s very subtly done, but it packs as much of a punch as the beautifully choreographed stage combat she employs to cement her position.  Jennifer Skapeti did some yeoman work with getting the dialects right – Thomas sounds and moves like someone from the English lower class who’s moved up.

     Robertson’s direction is stiletto-sharp and well paced; there’s hardly a moment that doesn’t have a couple layers of reaction and meaning. This production pulls the audience in on one level through the lighting and one audience member responded involuntarily with verbiage a couple of times, despite the aesthetic framework.  His reaction was honest and I understood it.  The play begins almost like the Ricky Gervais original version of The Office, but it turns into something out of Pinter and gets physically tougher. Isobel’s final speech in which she chillingly explains her motivation rang true for anyone sweating out whether she or he would still be employed.  However, I wish I liked the script more.  It’s a tour de force, both metaphorically and literally, but it’s cold and vicious.

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