Friday, October 03, 2008

EQQQQQQQ ! EQQQ !

So I went to Equus on Broadway. Let me back up a bit...

I generally disapprove of stunt casting and I'd been frustrated that people were so gung ho about seeing Potter's wand. It's all anybody talks about when talking about this classic which would lead one to believe that no one had ever seen a penis before. Or not seen one since the 70s. Sad for them.

Equus, for those of you who weren't alive in the 70s when the play caused a ruckus, is the story of a boy who commits an unthinkable atrocity in a stable and is sent to a psychiatric ward for treatment. It's a weighty tale with fascinating ideas thrown around about psychological imprinting, fetishistic sexuality, religion, reparative therapy and adolescent development. Yet all you ever hear about is the dick. Now, I'm totally for onstage / onscreen nudity so I don't wanna sound like a prude but all I could think was this: if people are expecting Daniel Radcliffe's penis to be as meaty as the play they're going to be disappointed. Even if he's hung like a, well...


I was going to be all annoyingly smug and skip the production until they brought in a real stage actor to replace Daniel Radcliffe. But my best friend wanted to see it for his birthday so off we went.

Mea culpa. Radcliffe ain't half bad. He's not even a third bad. It's not quite an award worth stage performance but he holds his own and he's definitely been growing as an actor with so much on the job training. At the very least he's ingeniously cast (yes, Virginia, stunt casting can work) and his physicality, speech, everything... completely sells that precarious and awkward space inbetween boy and man. Which is exactly where the part of Alan Strang, the young man who loves horses to death, needs to live. Richard Griffiths (who you'll know from the film and stage version of History Boys or as Uncle Dursley in the Harry Potter franchise) handles the constantly monologuing psychiatrist role like the consummate stage professional he is (Richard Burton and Peter Firth were both Oscar nominated for the psychiatrist and boy roles in the film version although one of them was marked "supporting", natch).

What's more the production is staged beautifully, eery horse masks top smart costumes and the lighting design is TONY worthy. The supporting cast is good, too. The gorgeous Lorenzo Pisoni plays two key roles and Radcliffe himself is amusingly enamored and not just onstage. Kate Mulgrew is terrific in the small but tricky role of Hester, the psychiatrist's confidante. The only weak spot was the actress playing the mother. She didn't seem to understand the nuances of her role, missing key moments and overplaying others.

All in all it's a very good production of a great play. Equus belongs on stage, where it can stay more abstracted, so if you've only seen it on film, try and catch this production. And if you want a really unsettling double feature, chase it with last year's unnerving experimental doc Zoo on DVD. B+

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

so......?

Tashai said...

hummmm. Not sure what to say except, "the mask is awesome."

Anonymous said...

I feel the need to ask the obvious question. What did you think? ;)

NATHANIEL R said...

I thought I'd said?

Anonymous said...

Oh, right. But was there anything glorious about his déshabillement?

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, when can we expect your Changeling review??

James Hansen said...

I'm looking forward to this as well. I have a (slightly pervy, mildly creepy, obsessed with Harry Potter at a bit too old of an age) friend who flew to London just to see it before she knew it was coming to NYC. She sat in the front row. She, of course, thinks it is the best play and production ever. But she even loved that crappy Radcliffe movie from last year that I don't remember the name of and won't bother looking up. He must have one magical penis...it attracts people from thousands of miles away.

Anyways, I do hear he is quite good though, and I've never seen a production of the play so I definitely want to. Glad to know that (some) normal people go to see it too.

Luigi De Angelis S. said...

Probably I would never see the play but I watched the movie and Richard Burton was awesome as the psychiatrist... What dou you think about Richard Burton, Nathaniel? He is my second favorite actor and your opinion is pretty important to me (even if I don't always agree).

BBats said...

Zoo sucks

Catherine said...

Yay for theatre! I know this is primarily a film blog, but I love hearing about plays you've been seeing, Nathaniel.

I haven't seen Equus, mostly because I don't think it's hit these shores yet but partly because I think Radcliffe sucks... as an actor [I had to really restrain myself from making a lewd joke there] but this review has opened my mind somewhat.

I've got tickets for Happy Days with Fiona Shaw this Tuesday. Excited!

Rob said...

The dong is fairly small-to-average and hooded, perverts. Nothing to be ashamed of, not right home about.

I mostly agree with you, Nat -- in fact, I might even have liked the production MORE than you -- but you didn't have a problem with Mulgrew's over-the-top, out-of-place camp? She got audience applause when she huffed off-stage, but I thought she was awful.

Rob said...

Jesus. "Not right home about" = "Nor write home about"

NATHANIEL R said...

rob -- interesting. Mulgrew didn't seem camp at all to me. Maybe she toned it down crossing the ocean? You saw it in London right?