Dr. Paul S Newman
2/14/2014 7:02 PM
One of the greatest dramas of the 20th Century. Still vital, evocative, and accessible.
Ciara Ni Chuirc
11/29/2013 5:18 PM
Many of Peter Shaffer’s plays concern themes of worship and faith, and in “Equus” Shaffer explores these themes to their full theatrical potential. Shaffer examines two crises of faith in the characters of Martin Dysart and Alan Strang, contrasting Dysart’s lack of faith with Alan’s self-constructed theology. Alan’s alienation from any overall sense of purpose resonates as strongly today as when the play was first produced in 1973.
The heavy stylization of the play calls for the audience to enter into Alan’s troubled world of horse-worship and romanticizes his condition to the extent that his hysterical passion seems preferable to Dysart’s sane, but staid existence. Dysart even goes so far as to comment that Alan has “known a passion more ferocious than anything I have ever felt in my life. And let me tell you something: I envy it.” The effectiveness of the play is undeniable, filling the theatre with the sense of an ancient force.
For me, the play’s strengths lie in its examination of characters who are outside society, and its examinations of the influence of their beliefs on their lives. Dysart seems to support any kind of worship or devotion as preferable to the passionless existence he feels he leads. His worldview is shaken by Alan’s intense passion, and he comes to be jealous of it, first in his comment that “I envy it,” going on to say “without worship you shrink, it’s as brutal as that…I shrank my own life.” As a story, “Equus” is compelling, and the questions it raises regarding faith resonate with the reader long after the final sentence is uttered, in the dark, by Dysart.
4/23/2013 5:42 PM
An intense and provocative psychological drama, "Equus" explores whether a mind is simply consumed by madness, or possibly surviving by escaping into a world of its own creation -- of an invented faith and passion, with secret rituals and consequences. "Equus" questions whether it is right to take away that inner life by treating and "curing" a person to be like everyone else in society, never to really feel again, never to escape back into their private world.
Inspired by a true-life story of horror, one that playwright Peter Shaffer had heard just the basics of at one time -- that of a stableboy who had blinded six horses, "Equus" is an imagining of what could possibly have created such a person, of what might possibly have happened in their life to lead to such a horrific crime. "Equus" exploded upon the theater scene in the mid 1970s, and has continued to captivate audiences and actors alike for its stunning, dramatic duals between a patient and the psychiatrist who is struggling with his own passionless existence, and whether to cure -- or commit.