A riddle: What do you get when you cross Ronald Reagan, Barbara Walters, Roy Cohn’s mother, Julius Rosenberg, random appearances by a stuffed frog, a Latina caregiver, a cameo from Richard Nixon and a African-American Adonis named “Serge?” If anyone can offer an accurate guess, please contact me. After sitting through a painful 90 minutes of the new Off-Broadway play In Bed With Roy Cohn, I’m not sure that even its playwright Joan Beber nor her director, Katrin Hilbe have the answer to this brainteaser.
Cohn (Christopher Daftsios) was a prominent, Manhattan lawyer who made his mark during Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt into US Communist activity in the 1950s. Later, he represented prolific mafia figures, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager of the famed Studio 54, and even real estate mogul slash current GOP rabble-rouser Donald Trump. Cohn’s brash, pit bull style made him one of the most feared and despised figures in legal and social realms of the eighties. Self loathing and egomania guided his contempt towards fellow Jews and homosexuals and he died of AIDS in 1986 (his closeted nature forced him to deny the diagnosis to his dying day.)
In Bed With Roy Cohn chronicles the last days of Cohn’s life. Personalities appear in his state of dementia and deliver various lines of non-cohesive gibberish, making it nearly impossible to form a collective picture of its subject. You’ll understand who this complex personality was with a little internet research or by watching Tony Kushner’s masterpiece, Angels In America. But with all the mishegas in this show, you’ll have no idea whether you’re seeing a piece on Roy Cohn or Roy Rogers.
God bless the cast, though. They are doing their best to scoop water from this inevitable Titanic and they all deserve better material. Near her demise, Cohn’s mother (Marilyn Sokol) laments, “I have no story”- a line that generally summarizes the whole messy bed. I really thought that Doctor Zhivago would walk off with the prize of being the worst theatrical experience of 2015, but my vote was premature: In Bed With Roy Cohn currently holds that title.
In Bed With Roy Cohn is now playing on Theater Row (W. 42nd between 9th and 10th avenues). For tickets and more information, visit http://www.inbedwithroycohn.com