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Brit Love Triangle; Will Eno’s ‘Title and Deed’: Theater

May 20, 2012

Jason Butler Harner, Amanda Quaid and Cory Micahel Smith in "C*ck." The show is playing at the Duke. Photographer: Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

Jason Butler Harner, Amanda Quaid and Cory Micahel Smith in "C*ck." The show is playing at the Duke. Photographer: Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

Despite the crowing provocation of its title, “C*ck” is a conventional love triangle with a twist. None of the three main characters is much of a catch, particularly the indecisive young two-timer who’s considered the prize of the competition.

The passe question posed in the play (the title refers neither to a male chicken nor to the act of readying a pistol to fire), is whether a gay man in a committed relationship can fall for a woman.

Mike Bartlett’s drama, at off-Broadway’s Duke on 42nd Street, was imported from London’s Royal Court Theatre. It concerns dainty young John (Cory Michael Smith) and his older, sardonic partner (Jason Butler Harner), who identifies himself as a broker. Stocks, bonds or real estate isn’t specified.

During a temporary relationship rift, John takes up with a woman closer to his age (Amanda Quaid), surprising no one more than himself, as he’s never shown much interest in the opposite sex.

Thick or Thin

Upon returning to the broker, John confesses he’s in love with a woman and needs “straightening out.” The two men had pledged to stay with each other, John says, “no matter what. And this is what. Thick or thin, we said, and this is thin.”

The talk gets salty, though the barely suggestive onstage sex has minimal touching and no disrobing.

The performers, directed by James Macdonald on a tiny round, bare stage, are marvelous. Although American, they’re so at home in their accents you’d think they flew over on the same plane as the cast of “One Man, Two Guvnors.” Miriam Buether has dressed them with keen attention to detail.

Even at 90 minutes, the experience of sitting on thin cushions in the custom-built indoor wooden amphitheater (choose the last row for back support) is rough on the b*tt.

At 229 W. 42nd St. Information: +1-646-223-3010; http://www.cockfightplay.com. Rating: **

‘Title and Deed’

“I’m not from here,” a man says at the outset of Will Eno’s “Title and Deed” at New York’s Signature Theatre. “I guess I never will be. That’s how being from somewhere works.”

Identified in the Playbill as “Man,” actor Conor Lovett asks the audience not to hate him.

“I know that’s not something you can ask a person. But, you know, what is? So, yeah, don’t walk out on me, or, if you do, try to walk out quietly.”

No one walked out of the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at a recent preview, but the eccentric, mournful monologue isn’t for anyone expecting traditional narrative. It’s packed with non-sequiturs, musings and malapropisms (love is a “many- splintered thing. Is that Shakespeare?”). Imagine the comedian Steven Wright as a Samuel Beckett interpreter, with no jokes but much dry wit. Gradually a theme of loss emerges.

As Man tells it, he’s a traveler from an undisclosed home, “where the hat’s hanging and the placenta’s buried.” A long- term relationship is over. His parents are gone.

“They were good people, them, but they’re dead to me now, both having died.”

Hairpin Turns

Vibrant and controlled, with his hands in constant motion, Lovett makes hairpin turns from light to dark.

He meditates on everything from childbirth and etymology to learning to read and the sensations of smell and love. He describes the moments when his parents died. He recalls a blonde woman named Lisa who thinks of him as distant and breaks up with him.

“‘You look like you just got born,’” he recalls her saying. “‘Most people get over that.’”

Eno was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for 2005’s “Thom Pain (based on nothing.)” This one, directed by the performer’s wife, Judy Hegarty Lovett, was a jarring 70 minutes of whimsical, disjointed dourness, occasionally hitting close to home.

Through June 17 at 480 W. 42nd St. Information: +1-212-244- 7529; http://www.signaturetheatre.org. Rating: **


What the Stars Mean:
****        Do Not Miss
***         Excellent
**          Good
*           So-So
(No stars)  Avoid

(Philip Boroff is a writer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Today’s Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine and Manuela Hoelterhoff on culture.

To contact the writer of this column: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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