Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Wayman's interview with Jeffrey Brian Adams and Monique Hafen of She Loves Me and Richard's reviews of All Aunt Hagar's Children, Rapture, Blister, Burn, Entanglement, Absolutely Fabulous, and Cirque du Soleil's Luzia
I have seen Equus several times before, in New York, London and Los Angeles, starting with the original Broadway production with Anthony Hopkins as the psychiatrist Martin and Peter Firth as Alan and one year later with Leonard Nimoy as the psychiatrist and Tom Hulce as Alan. I saw several productions in Los Angeles including one at the Ark Theatre with Jim Hanna tackling the role of Martin and Patrick Stafford as the boy.
Morgan Lange plays 17-year-old Alan Strang who has blinded six horses. Rather than being put in jail, he is taken to an English state hospital where he is seen by a well-worn provincial shrink, Martin Dysart (John Fisher), who tolerantly delves in to uncover the motive behind the boy's revolting action. The audience learns that Alan, the child of a repressed printer (Rudy Guerrero) and his religious fanatic wife (Ann Lawler), has become a confused person, sexually and emotionally, excited by perceptible horseflesh. Through interviews with the boy's parents and the lad himself, Martin starts to slot the pieces of the puzzle into place and the apex of the drama sees a reenactment of the crime in the stable where Alan worked.
Martin has some baggage also and he is frustrated in his own marriage. His life is dull, repetitive and, in his own view, rather meaningless. There are gay undercurrents in John Fisher's direction as Martin longs for the boy's experience, echoing his sexual outsider status and awkward socialization.
Morgan Lange is outstanding in the role of Alan Strang. He presents the character in a helpless, anxious, and sometimes scarier version than I have seen in the past. He also morphs into an ingenuously child-like character who has been barraged with differing viewpoints that have somehow gotten mixed up in his brain and developed as horse-worship.
John Fisher gives a superlative performance as Martin. He plays the role with an air of defenseless humanity and I was moved by his genuine affection at the end. Rudy Guerrero plays four roles, including Frank Strang and the nurse. He is pitch perfect with three English accents including a Manchester/Liverpool accent as Alan's reticent father. Ann Lawler in three roles, especially Alan's religion-obsessed mother, gives a splendid performance; and Iris Haas Biel, especially as the sexually exploratory stable girl Jill, gives a sensual performance. Guerrero, Lawler, and Biel do a marvelous job of recreating the horses, with wire masks, metal shoes shaped like hoofs, and body posture. Dialect coach Treacy Corrigan should be complimented on giving the whole cast spot on English dialects.
Equus plays through December 10, 2016, at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtained by calling 1-800-838-3006 or visiting www.TheRhino.org Coming up next is a free reading of Juanita's Statue by Anne Garcia-Romero on December 5 at the The GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th Street, San Francisco (cross street Castro), and then Gertrude Stein and a Companion by Win Wells opening on December 28 and running through January 8, 2017 at the Eureka Theatre.