Testosterone infused Battle of Cockerels and Cocks
Map Theatre’s latest production, Year of the Rooster, by Olivia Dufault, at 18th and Union, is not about the Chinese Zodiac, but about the blood sport of cockfighting, both the actual roosters who fight in the ring, and the owners who behave like roosters, challenging each other for social dominance outside the ring.
Taking place in Oklahoma, one of the three states in the U.S. where cockfighting is not only legal but a billion dollar industry, the protagonist is a proverbial looser, Gil Pepper, played by Brandon Ryan, who challenges the pecking order of the Cockfighting aficionados in his small town. Gil is an early 20’s male of slight build, a 5 year veteran of McDonalds, still living with his deranged mother, bereft of male or female friends, who believes that he will redeem his self esteem and self-respect by training and doping a winning cock, Odysseus Rex.
Unfortunately, his opponent Dickie Thimble, played by Lantz Wagner, who has the incumbent champion cock, (in more ways than one) is everything you would ask for in an Oklahoma cowboy, well-built, successful in business, who never looses an opportunity to display his excessive testosterone levels and demonstrate his dominance in the pecking order.
Gil’s super cock, Odysseus Rex, who was bred from champion stock, but whose performance has been enhanced by drugs and excessive training, is played superbly by Shane Regan, who strutted around just like an actual cock, complete with an anger management problem worthy of a barroom brawler.
Within a loose plot, the theme of low self-esteem as the origin of macho competitiveness is explored. Although the culture of Cockfighting was a perfect metaphor for exposing the subject, the weakness of the production was the script itself, while the strength was in the excellence of the production, which was indeed impressive.
Shane Regan’s performance, as Odysseus Rex, under the expert direction of Peggy Gannon, should go down in history, as one of those performances, where an actor plays an animal as a human or a human as an animal, using animal physicality and human emotion blended together to perfection. His performance also stood out since his character, Odysseus Rex, was the only one the author allowed to have any character development. In a very touching scene, Odysseus Rex, managed to shed his macho character and make some psychic movement towards understanding his anger.
Which gets us to the weakness of the script-there was far too little character development, in the other characters. Poor Gil Pepper stays stuck in his childish fantasy that self-esteem is an external reward rather than something one works on internally; he is the same deluded character at the end of the play as he was at beginning.
Also the vocabulary of the dialogue was very limited and the characters seemed to only know about four or five words: the f-word, the mf-word, the s-word, the a-word and the two b-words. In short, the author, Olivia DuFault seemed incapable of sophisticated wit and relied on cheap shots to shock the audience. Perhaps the cheapest shot was that the basis of the humor was contempt.
However, the staging by Gannon and the creative set used the very limited space effectively, while managing swift set changes. Stacey Bush’s fight choreography was extremely convincing. Those of the humans made me wince in the back row, while those of the roosters were enhanced by the exquisite scenic backdrops, by Suzi Tucker, which added an air of authenticity. All the actors were totally on the ball, the various accents were accurate and intelligible, and there were a lot of laughs from the audience. There was nothing to fault in the production itself.
Unfortunately the script was just not my cup of tea. I noticed that a lot of the actors and tech crew had worked on A Behanding >in Spokane, a play which I find particularly loathsome. so if you liked that show, you will probably like Year of the Rooster. Frankly, just watching Shane Regan, and the Cockfighting scenes made seeing Year of the Rooster worthwhile .
They have a pay what will policy, thru Brown Paper Tickets, it is anything from $5, or $1 from the door. B
To my knowledge, no animals, cocks or otherwise were harmed in this production.
Year of the Rooster Map Theatre. 18th and Union Theater. 1406-18th Ave. Seattle 98122 ( Central District, South of Denny, just North of the corner of 18th and Union.) Thu. Fri. Sat. 8 pm Thru May 5th Tickets https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3352470 Info: www.maptheatre.com,