(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
The latest production in 59E59's Brits Off Broadway series is Mike Bartlett's companion piece to his clever play "Cock (a/k/a The Cockfight Play)." Like the earlier play, this one, subtitled "The Bullfight Play," takes place in an arena-like setting. The arena in "Cock" actually resembled a bullring more than this set, which looks more like a carpeted boxing ring with a water cooler in the corner. There's a low glass wall around the playing area for a portion of the audience to stand behind. The setup is simple: three employees are about to meet their boss Carter (Neil Stuke) to find out which one is going to be fired. The icy Isobel (Eleanor Matsuura) and the smooth, devious Tony (Adam James) take turns tormenting the milquetoast Thomas (Sam Troughton) until he can endure it no longer. Apparently "bull" is really short for "bullying" in this instance. Toward play's end, Isobel makes a case that victims of bullying deserves it, because it is a necessary Darwinian tool for culling the gene pool. The actors are all first-rate, but the proceedings are too nasty for my taste. I fear that Bartlett has lost his way, giving too much attention to set design gimmickry and too little attention to substantive playwriting. Claire Lizzimore's direction is assured. Running time: only 55 minutes, but that was more than enough.