PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER: Cory Michael Smith, Cock's Lover and Fighter

By Brandon Voss
18 Jun 2012

 

Cory Michael Smith and Amanda Quaid in Cock.
Photo by Joan Marcus

M and W each have individual strengths and flaws that make them so much more than just "Man" and "Woman." Is it part of the fun for theatregoers to choose sides or root for their home team?
CMS: Yeah, it's definitely a fight in that way. I hope that people are engaged enough to choose sides, because that's essentially what my character's doing in the play. It would be even more exciting if people switched teams at some point or came in with certain assumptions and then had them shift. I had a good friend explain to me which choice he preferred and why, and it was really based on the aggressive and challenging type of relationship that he consistently finds himself in. He's straight, but he was more naturally inclined to support John's relationship with M; it felt more real and familiar to him because it had more fighting. It was interesting to hear that. People always see reflections of their own relationships or what they want in a relationship.

The play is certainly one that incites debate among those who've seen the production. Do you allow yourself to get involved in those arguments?
CMS: I ignored them for a very long time, but at this point I find it interesting and fun, so I'm more open to it. It's usually women who will come up to me after the play and share their thoughts. Some people completely understand where John is at the end of the play, but other people find John manipulative, which I don't find at all. I hate when people think that, because I don't want them to find him manipulative. I don't take anything personally because it's so incredibly varied, and I find the opinions entirely reflect someone else's experience, whether it's their most recent or most pertinent relationship. When people get angry toward him, I imagine it's because they've been hurt by someone like him who was uncertain. Still, it's thrilling for me when someone has a personal reaction to the play. That kind of strong feeling is the greatest thing I can ask for.



Cock is performed in the round with the audience visibly lit and in close proximity to the actors. Does that ever become a distraction?
CMS: I love it. I tend to be an intense and focused person, so I don't get that distracted from it. Well, I did the first couple times, just because it's such an extreme environment, but I very quickly adapted. Frankly, I don't have time to get distracted. There are times I'll accidentally catch someone's reaction to something, and it's lovely. My favorites are the couples who'll look at each other with knowing looks, and I'll notice that some of them will get closer to each other as the play goes on. It's cool to see other people connecting to the play. Sometimes it feeds me, but I don't look much.

Audiences sometimes have very vocal reactions to the material, as if they're at a sporting event. How do you prepare for that as an actor?
CMS: It's funny you say that, because we recently had an extremely vocal audience, which was really strange. I don't think you can ever really prepare for that. Individual voices can be jarring, and it's surprising when people get really passionate like that, but it's fun when the audience becomes a team and decides on one personality like a collective animal. It's exciting when an audience feels that they can participate, and the lighting definitely helps; they feel like they can't hide anyway, so why not go wild?

Your director, James Macdonald, also helmed Cock in London. What was it like to work with someone who had already directed the play to great acclaim with different actors — and actual Brits [the play's characters are British]?
CMS: To his credit, and I'm ever thankful, he did not mention the British production once during rehearsals. There were no expectations placed on us, which was great. As I was tackling the script, the last thing I wanted was to feel like I had to climb out of the shadow of Ben Whishaw, who played John in London and whom I love and think is so fantastic. I had some anxiety about that, but James didn't say a word about it. James is such a lovely, gentle man, and he created one of the greatest rehearsal environments I've experienced thus far.

 Continued...