by Lynn on June 24, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor St. W. Toronto, Ont.

Written and directed by Kat Sandler
Set by Claire Hill
Costumes by Holly Lloyd
Lighting by Melissa Joakim
Sound by Jason O’Brien
Fight direction by Jeff Hanson
Benjamin Blais
Jakob Ehman
Brenhan McKibben
Caroline Toal
David Tompa

A high energy play and production about a street smart hustler who wants to go into the cockfighting business with his two foster brothers.

The Story. Mike Chiavetti is a street smart hustler. He’s always looking for an angle to make money without actually having to work for it in the regular way. His latest scheme is cockfighting. He’ll buy a rooster from a local thug who knows about such things; train the rooster to fight other roosters, (cocks if you will); and will rake in the money. The rooster costs $40. Mike doesn’t have it. But one of his foster brothers gives the money to him thinking he is going to buy something else. Mike is that kind of guy. He’d mooch off his foster brothers, sweet talk them into the scheme and they would go along with it.

His foster brothers are not that swift. Charlie Chiavetti is pining for a woman who sort of dumped him. She does write him letters, he thinks. He keeps them safe and reads and rereads them. He also does push-ups quite frequently to keep in shape in case his lady friend comes back to him. August is even slower than Charlie and the one with a steady job. August Chiavetti is a bus boy in a local restaurant. He’s sweet on a waitress named Ingrid. Out of love for her August wants to name the rooster Ingrid. I said he isn’t very swift. But he is sweet and so is Charlie. Mike on the other hand is a pushy, ballsy, always thinking, always moving operator. Who is usually duped himself. He unites the brothers in his scheme and they see it as an adventure. Until things get sticky with the rooster and other things.

The Production. The playing space is round in Claire Hill’s set. There is junk around the periphery. Charlie builds a pyramid with the beer cans that are strewn around the set and Mike keeps kicking down. Mike brings some chicken wire fencing to create a cock pen to enclose the cock. The three foster brothers wind a section of the fencing around poles in the floor and in no time have a neat cock pen of sorts. There are openings to entre and exit.

Mike, as played by Benjamin Blais is quick walking and fast talking. His mind is whizzing with ideas and how to get his brothers involved. His performance is a combination of bravura, cockiness (excuse me) and a guy who always has a fast comeback. Blais makes Mike hugely attractive but we are wary of such a guy. In one scene with Ingrid Mike sizes her up pretty quickly. He’s protective of his brothers, but not above coming on to her himself.

As Charlie, Brenhan McKibben is laid back, mournful since he’s yearning for his sort of girl-friend, and sweet. August, as played by Jakob Ehman appears to be slow but well meaning, innocent and honourable. As Ingrid (the person not the rooster), Caroline Toal is a take-no-prisoners kind of woman. She is coy with August and that’s how she charmed him. But she certainly is attracted to Mike because he’s got her number. In this case she is both coy and quietly aggressive. And finally as Scarman Devilman, the man who brings the rooster, David Tompa is twitchy, to the point and commanding. He wants his collateral (a key) in exchange for the rooster. No one knows where it is. Danger is everywhere in that room.

Kat Sandler also directs her play. She has a clear sense of direction and how to heighten the sense of danger and drama in a scene. Her sense of direction is tough, nuanced and fearless. There is a swiftness in the pace leaving one almost breathless by the time the explosive ending comes.

Comment. Often when a playwright is prolific the output occasionally looks like typing rather than writing. Not so in Kat Sandler’s case. She produces plays that are sharply focused, gritty, high energy and very funny. Cockfight is no different. Here she writes of the underbelly of society. Her people aren’t neat and clean. They are scrappers. They think quickly on their feet. They fight. They challenge and stare down. They know nothing of cocks and go off ‘cock-sure’ (sorry) with funny and sobering results. She will also have a new play in the Fringe. Kat Sandler, a playwright-director to watch and that goes for Cockfight too.

Produced by Brouhaha Labs and Redone Theatre Collective

Opened: June 12, 2014
Closes: June 28, 2014
Cast: 5; 4 men, 1 woman
Running Time: 2 hours approx.


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