Sarah McGee and the character she plays in “Cock (The Cock Fight Play)” at Phoenix Theatre are vastly different in some ways but in other ways are very much the same. Opening Thursday, the show runs through July 6 on the Phoenix’s Livia and Steve Russell Stage, which has been transformed into a stadium to replicate a cock fighting ring.
McGee plays W alongside Chris Roe as John, Scot Greenwell as M and Brad Griffith as F in what the show’s press release refers to as “a provocative, tense comedy.” Directed by the Phoenix’s producing director Bryan Fonseca, “Cock” (the play’s correct title with the longer version added to appease “family friendly” newspaper editors), was written by British playwright Mike Bartlett. It premiered in London in 2009 and in New York in 2012 to critical acclaim.
The play, which concerns itself with what critic Rex Reed called “sexual identity or the lack of it,” centers on John who breaks off from his longtime boyfriend M, but later returns, announcing that he has fallen in love with W, a woman. After that shocking announcement John is thrust into an emotional free for all in which he is smack dab in the middle of two people who pressure him to choose between them. Then to stir things up further, playwright Bartlett includes an accepting father, F, in the plot who is supportive of John’s boyfriend.
“The play really touched me. I cried when I first read it. It made me emotional because I realized that we have all been these characters at some at some point in our lives. They go through so much indecision that I think everyone will identify with in this show,” said McGee when she sat down recently with Examiner.com to talk about the show and her role in it.
Despite, for some, its controversial content, McGee saw as a great opportunity to stretch her acting muscles. McGee is an Ohio native who moved to Indy with her husband Christian in 2003. She had done community theater but took time off to raise her two daughters, Sophia Mae, 8, and Elizabeth James, 5. Eventually she returned to the stage to perform in some Carmel Community Players' productions, including “Talking With,” in October. Later she found out about “Cock” through Greenwell, who told her he was auditioning for it when they participated together in the One Minute Play Festival held at the Phoenix held in March.
As far as her character, W, McGee pointed out similarities. “I am nurturing the way she is. She’s kind and appreciates courtesy in other people. I would say I am a lot like her in that regard. What I wish I had more of is her ability to trust herself and her assuredness. She means what she says because of it. I like to think that I mean what I say it but I don’t always speak up. She owns her sensuality and I think I am just kind of goofy girl,” laughed McGee.
Though McGee thinks she may lack assuredness, she must possess some given the fact that not only does she have to affect an English accent, she also has perform in a sex scene (clothed) in the play. “I think it will surprise people in the way that Bryan [Fonseca] has us in the scene. Chris and I just dove right in. We had a great time. Chris is wonderful and we hit it off, right off the bat. Knowing I would do the sex scene did intimidate me, though,” proclaimed McGee.
When asked what she thinks people will take away from the play, McGee said, “What I thought about the most during this experience is how difficult it is to make a decision to be happy. A friend once asked me, ‘Are you afraid to be happy?’ I think it’s an interesting question and it shows up a lot in this show. Do you make stands in your life with your decisions or in your relationships with people? It really made me think how hard it is to choose happiness sometimes.”
“There is a speech John gives at the end about coming out and it gave me a whole new perspective. Everyone has an obvious idea about how difficult it is or how much turmoil occurs when you come out to your friends and family. It was really enlightening for me and will be for the audience as well. You can’t watch this show without realizing how we label people. It also makes you think about your own relationship.”
Why should people come to see “Cock?”, McGee was asked. She replied, “It’s provocative but not in a sexual way. It is not boring. I love theater because it makes you think. I love to talk to my husband after we’ve seen a show. I have seen shows where I am not inspired to do that. This is a show that will spark conversation. I hope there is an even number of people split on just what they saw. I think they’ll disagree about whether the right thing happened or not.”
For tickets and information about “Cock (The Cock Fight Play)” call (317) 635-7529 or visit www.phoenixtheatre.org.
Do you wish to become a regular reader of this column? Receive e-mail alerts when new articles are available. Just click on the “Subscribe” button above. Also, "Like" Tom Alvarez on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.