The Kid Gets Into Pictures

With two new plays being produced this season by major New York off-Broadway companies -- and another soon to open in California -- the distinctive gay voice of Adam Bock has generated quite a buzz in contemporary theater circles. Now he's setting his sights on Hollywood

BY Gerard Raymond

December 06 2007 1:00 AM ET

“I write
about gay people or I write about people that are not
usually the center of the story,” says
playwright Adam Bock. There are no gay characters or
same-sex plotlines in The
Receptionist—
Bock's latest
production, currently playing off-Broadway at the
Manhattan Theatre Club -- however, the title character
is a woman in her 50s. “I wanted to put an older
woman in the center of the play,” says Bock,
explaining that he once worked at a receptionist
himself for a temp agency. “I had so much power and
no power at the same time. I knew everything that was
going on in the office, and yet, when the office party
was happening, I had to sit at my desk.” He
draws the parallel to his experiences as a gay man.
“I’m a white man and I went to Ivy
League schools and I’ve had the most privilege. And
yet, at the same time, someone could call me a fag and
I am dismissed.”

Tim Sanford,
artistic director at New York’s Playwrights Horizons
-- which presents Bock’s other new work, TheDrunken City, beginning in March -- describes him
as “deeply special, unique, sunny, trenchant, funny,
deep." However, Sanford notes that there are seeming
contradictions in Bock’s work. “He
writes about characters going through big events and
transitions, but filtered through a decidedly everyday
lens. His use of language is taut and jumpy but also
expressive and rhythmically poetic.”

Indeed,
Bock’s off-kilter approach to storytelling, as well
as his acknowledgement of traditionally sidelined
characters, is probably the constant in an eclectic
series of funny and challenging plays he has turned
out over the past 10 years. In Swimming in the
Shallows
(which won the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle
award for Best Play in 1999) a man falls in love with
a (somewhat literal) shark and tries not to sleep with
him too fast on the first date. His Obie
Award–winning The Thugs tapped into the
unsettling and sometimes scary experiences of temps working
late nights in near-empty office buildings. And The
Shaker Chair, a
coproduction by Shotgun
Players and Encore Theatre Company in Berkeley,
Calif., that opens December 12, focuses on older women
and environmental activism. When he writes gay characters,
they are full-blooded and sexy; The Advocate
review of his 2004 comedy Five Flights singled
it out for “the best gay male kiss” ever
seen onstage. “I was very proud of
that,” Bock says with a chuckle. “I
always thought it would be great to date a hockey
player -- he’d say, ‘Honey, we won the game,
come to bed!’ ”

Tags: Theater

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