Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Equus (The SOB Review)

Equus (The SOB Review) - Broadhurst Theatre, New York, New York

**1/2 (out of ****)

Such microscopic detail has been given to Daniel Radcliffe's first full frontal stage outing via Equus that all focus on the revival's dubious storyline has been obfuscated.

At its very core, Peter Shaffer's disturbing play -- about a young stable boy trading his love for Jesus with his worship of horses, only to gouge their eyes out when he can't engage in normal human contact -- gives enormous credit to psychobabble quackery while ironically attempting to discredit deeply held religious beliefs. Shaffer's preachy, provocative work merely trades one set of beliefs with another.

Nevertheless, Thea Sharrock's taut reins provide a highly stylized, theatrical, and yes homoerotic mounting that is visually astonishing. As the designer of both set and costumes, it's clear that John Napier's focus was on the latter, especially given this revival's sensually strapping stallions played by Lorenzo Pisoni (Nugget), Marc Spaulding, Collin Baja, Tyrone Jackson, Spencer Liff and Adesola Osakalumi.

In a stunning departure from his beloved portrayal of Harry Potter, in which the world has watched him grow up, Radcliffe draws a line in the sand with his chingle-changle, letting the world know that he is most definitely an adult. In taking on the difficult role of Alan Strang, Radcliffe not only rises to the challenge, but triumphs over ever being typecast in the future. One can only hope that Radcliffe will continue in that great British tradition of balancing his acting career between movies and the stage.

Radcliffe certainly benefits by playing opposite Richard Griffiths as Alan's psychiatrist Martin Dysart. With a performance marked with soft-spoken subtlety, especially given his character's ultimate descent into his own delusions, Griffiths once again proves a master of the stage. (However, I would add here that whenever this Tony-winning actor was facing away from me and speaking, I could barely register what he was saying. A deficiency perhaps in Gregory Clarke's sound design?).

Can I enthusiastically recommend this mounting of Equus? Because of the subject matter itself, my response, unfortunately, is "Neigh." But for anyone wishing to see sheer stagecraft at its best, by all means see it.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 03 January, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

Hey Steve,
I agree with you about Shaffer trying to discredit religious faith. (Whatever all of this religious faith did to Alan, he assures us that psychiatry can cure it!)

And I did get tired of the psychobabble. I can't see how Griffiths' psychiatrist could seriously have found anything to envy. I really never got into the internal monologue he was having. Just help the poor kid already!

But I also loved Daniel Radcliffe. He was great to watch - just the way he was so uncommunicative in the beginning and then gradually opened up. And I really enjoyed Anna Camp as Jill Mason. She was just so perky and flirtatious and talky - Alan's complete opposite.


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