It's inevitable to compare In Bed With Roy Cohn to Angels in America. Not for its prolific writing but for many parallel similarities. While Kushner haunts Roy with the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg, Beber gives her Roy Ethel's husband Julius. In Angels, Prior awakes from a dream and recites a line from "The Wizard of Oz". Beber's Cohn does the same. Comparisons aside, In Bed With Roy Cohn may have displayed Cohn’s struggle with reality and sanity in a fever dream manner, but the piece seemed to lack purpose. There was no journey to the character aside from watching Cohn rekindle relationships with his past including his mother, his younger self, his young male lover, Barbara Walters, and Ronald Reagan. Beber didn’t try to paint Cohn in a better light or have the past alter his fight to hang on longer or come clean with his insecurities, instead it was an absurdist approach to an unredeemable life. There is virtually no answer to “why this story now”, especially after already having a theatrical version of Cohn’s life. Nothing new was presented, unless you count bringing awareness to the cover-up relationship Walters and Cohn had. The other major problem with the script is Beber relied on quotes to further the plot. From Shakespeare to “Gone With the Wind”, the quotes sometimes played a bigger role in the story than Beber’s actual text. Using these overabundant quotes as a crutch to tell Cohn’s story proved the lack of substance in the script.
|photo by Russ Rowland|
The absurdist comedy had a certainly committed ensemble. And you can make the case that some of their characters should be committed to the loony bin. As Roy Cohn himself, Christopher Daftsios brought promise. He did his research and could easily portray Cohn in a production of Angels in America. There was a natural tenacity in his demeanor but seldom did it change. The interesting aspect about In Bed With Roy Cohn is that when presenting a well-known character, it bordered on spoof rather than fact. Nelson Avidon as Ronald Reagan and Lee Roy Rogers as Barbara Walters took more of a “Saturday Night Live” approach to their characters. It’s what the writing called for. Rogers nearly replicated part of Gilda Radner’s character. The non-celebrity characters followed into the over-the-top style as well. Rebeca Fong, who stole the show as Lisette, and Marilyn Sokol as Dora, Roy’s mom, were whacky and crazy. The only grounded and interesting character seemed to come from the silent and agile Andy Reinhardt as Young Roy. Reinhardt and Daftsios supplied the only honest human connection, despite virtually being the same person.
In Bed With Roy Cohn seemed to suffer the same fate as Iowa at Playwrights Horizons. While this show was certainly more pointed, the play was just an assortment of ideas with no rhyme or reason. Roy Cohn’s journey to death may be interesting for a scene. But it’s been done before.