Monday, November 10, 2008

Back from Equus

Equus was amazing. That's the best way to say it. It is the best play I have ever seen on Broadway. Spring Awakening is the best musical, but this is the best play. Yes, I loved reading the play, but watching it made it a whole new experience. Whenever I teach plays, people say, "Oh, students have to see it to get it." While there's some truth in that, I always want to reply, "So I shouldn't teach anything unless we can watch a production? It's better to deny students the opportunity to know about X play at all?" Yes, it's one of my pet peeves. Much of the time, watching a play certainly adds to my understanding, but this is the first time that I feel like my understanding of a play has been blown apart by a production of it.

That's partly because the best thing about this play is the set. Well, it might be better to say that the best thing about the play is the staging of it. Though it's on a traditional stage, the set is round and spare. As I was sitting there before the play began, I instantly thought the set was supposed to make us think of Greek tragedy, which is augmented by the fact that the set features two rows of seating right above it. Yes, on the back of the stage and on top of the set are seats for a few audience members who have to lean over the railing to see the action. They become a jury, which adds to the air of Greek tragedy surrounding the performance.

And the performances are great, too. I've read a couple of reivews that talk about how Richard Griffiths is more understated than previous incarnations of the psychiatrist, and I think that's true. My only criticism is that he is so strong, I wondered a couple of times if the part is overwritten. He has several monologues that he handles well, but I started to wonder if all of that information needed to be in a monologue. Daniel Radcliffe is great, too. There's always that moment when an actor like that walks on stage that I think, "Ohmigod, it's him! It's him!" I did the same with Whoopi Goldberg and Swoosie Kurtz in the past. But I instantly forgot it was him and got pulled into the story. Yes, there's the infamous nude scene, which goes on for a bit, but what amazed me about the handling of it was the choreography. I won't say much except that the scene focuses on the sex and violence that are at the heart of the play, and I was fascinated by the way the horses and Rascliffe moved about the stage. Actually, "moved" is too vague. I loved the way they rampaged across stage.

And then there's the lighting. And the way the stage starts spinning at one point. And the way that fog leaks through vents in the stage. And the way the horses wear metal hooves that sound amazing when stomping on those metal vents. And, and, and.

Yeah, I loved it. I'm going to try to see it again, too.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't have quite the same response, and when my article on the play comes out, I'd be interested to see what you think...But on the whole, I fear that what has happened is that I can't enjoy theatre anymore. Only appreciate it when it hits certain intellectual marks. Which Equus just didn't do for me.

    Ah well, I suppose that when you work on what you love, what you love becomes work.