Hunger: In Bed With Roy Cohn, or as I jokingly refer to it, “Roy Cohn The Musical,” opened at the Odyssey Theatre on January 21. It is definitely an odd piece, a pastiche of various people in Roy Cohn’s life as he waits for the final judgment in the purgatory of his mind. Roy Cohn is of course that slimy lawyer who assisted McCarthy at the Army/McCarthy Hearings and then assisted Judge Irving Kaufman at the trial and eventual electrocution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of spying for the Soviets. Joan Beber is the playwright.
The setting is a giant bed where we discover Roy asleep. Once he wakes up he finds himself visited by various important people in his life who lead him to confront the horror of his sad life. His controlling mother is always pushing Roy to new heights of infamy. Cohn is also visited by Barbara Walters whom he dated at one time, but was never her equal. Ronald Reagan stops by in his confused mental state; he can never really admit to knowing or liking Roy though they did know each other well as Reagan was also a rabid anti-communist. We also meet G. David Schine, Roy’s rumored lover, who wants Roy to admit his homosexuality, which he denies even in the face of AIDS. By Roy’s side is Lizette, the Hispanic maid who seems to be the only one Roy trusts but is also a constant reminder of his sexuality.
The most troublesome visitor is Julius Rosenberg who wants Roy to meet his wife Ethel who, it seems, has forgiven all. But to meet her is to admit he convicted her falsely. Haunting the play is a version of Young Roy, or the Roy that could have been: handsome, carefree, full of dance. Nothing like being haunted by a version of what you could have been.
The whole play is presented as a musical interlude where characters break into song and/or dance to illustrate their message to Roy. The cast is quite brave, especially Barry Pearl as Roy. Roy’s mother is Dora Cohn. Lizette, the maid, is the sexy and often funny Presciliana Esperalini. Liza de Weerd is Barbara Walters, Tom Galup is G. David Schine, and David Sessions is Ronald Reagan. Jon Levenson is strong as Julius Rosenberg and Jeffrey Scott Parsons is a wonderful Young Roy and dances beautifully.
Jules Aaron, who it seems directs half the shows in LA, does a commendable job of keeping things moving and extracting the humor. Still, trying to humanize Roy Cohn is not the most exciting or entertaining subject matter. Hunger: In Bed With Roy Cohn will play at the Odyssey Theatre until March 11.