“Look, life is only comprehensible through a thousand local gods… spirits of certain trees, of certain curves of brick walls, of certain fish and chip shops if you like. And slate roofs, and frowns in people, and slouches… I’d say to them, “Worship all you can see, and more will appear…”
― Peter Shaffer, Equus
So last night I’m sitting there, watching the play Equus, and I found myself caught up once more in the magick of the théâtre. It helps that The Living Room Theatre is one of those places were the first row is practically on the stage, and there you are, right in the thick of it. It’s as if you’re invisible to the people you are watching and it’s hard not to feel like a voyeur.
I quite suddenly found myself feeling connected to centuries of actors, writers, directors and members of audiences of plays without number. After all, doesn’t such story-telling go back as far as there were people?
I can see a cave man acting out a scene before a ring of people around a fire. I can see him waving one arm before him, a make-believe mammoth. And then pretending to first hold. and then throw a spear. And then maybe, just maybe, acting out the part of some sky god on high, nodding it’s approval.
Surely “plays” were some of our earliest entertainment, each generation being whooed and wowed by the teller of the tales on the stages before them. From those caveman tales to Greek stages to Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre to Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol and on and on and on….
Last night was no less a part of all of that. The main set was a psychiatrist’s office, but with a change of lighting or a wall that slid aside, we found ourselves on a beach, a disturbed boy’s living room, a shop, a bus, or a movie theater showing skin flicks. With the magic of the director and staging, it took very little imagination to be taken to all these places and more…including a darkened barn where a deeply disturbed young man snaps and blinds four horses.
I knew nothing of this play when I went to see it except that there were horses and that Daniel Radcliffe was nude in the final fifteen minutes in the London and New York productions in the last few years.
I do not think this play is for everyone. Certainly not the reader who won’t read a bittersweet story or the theatergoer who thinks Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is the be all and end of all of theater! But for someone who loves the theater like l do? It should not be missed (by the way, I’m gay, I do love Joseph!).
Rusty Sneary as the psychiatrist Martin Dysart was simply amazing. Matthew Lindblom was incredible as Alan Strang, the disturbed boy who has somehow confused God, brutal Biblical stories and horses together into his own religion.
I was also quite taken with Amy Attaway as Hesther Salomon, a magistrate and confidant of Dysart. In her limited stage time she all but stole the stage. And finally Shawnna Journagan as the nurse and Paul Burns as the stable owner were wonderful, even though their parts were small. They proved the old saying that there are no small parts, only small actors. Neither Ms Journagan or Mr Burns are “small actors.”
Please, and please, if you live in the Kansas City area (or you don’t!) you need to see this show. I understand in the original the stage was quite stark. That TLR chose a slightly different tact for me, was quote simple amazing. Do NOT miss this if you can help it.
Today l am very grateful not only to have seen the powerful play Equus, but for the magic of theater. It was also really nice to see the show, and share my love of the stage, with my daughter!