Monday, September 15, 2008

Equus. Go see it.

Peter Shaffer's celebrated and controversial play Equus has come to Broadway's Broadhurst Theater. The show is currently in previews and officially opens on September 25th for a limited engagement through February 8 2009. I just saw it this Saturday and urge you to see it and not just so that you can get a glimpse at a naked Daniel Radcliffe. There was definitely a contingient of young ladies and gentlemen who shelled out a hefty sum to see Daniel Radcliffe in the buff, but be forewarned the security is no joke. If you're going to be a gawker and try and snap a picture be prepared to get tackled and have your camera confiscated.

No doubt most people have heard that Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame is playing the lead, a disturbed young man who blinds six horses in a fit of misguided religious and sexual frustration. No doubt most people have also heard that he runs around naked as the day he was born for a good two minutes. I was expecting Equus to be little more than a spectical, but it was actually quite good.

Quick plot summary: Radcliffe plays Alan Strang a 17 year old stable hand who is court ordered to see a psychiatrist after blinding six horses with a hot pick. The entirely of the play revolves around Alan's reconstruction of the events that led up to the blinding. Through his sessions with Dr. Dysart we learn that Alan has constructed a theology that revolves around horses, the god figure being "Equus" (the Latin for horse). Alan's religious worship of horses becomes sexual and interrups his sexual experience with a female character. His feeling of impotance, confusion, and shame is what drives him to the disturbing act of violence against the horses.

At times the play felt dated (it was originally written in 1973 and is very loosely based on an actual case of a 17-year old blinding horses in London), but overall I think there were very powerful moments in the play. I also felt that Equus asks the audience a lot of provoking and difficult questions. The play had some very interesting things to say around issues of secularism and religiosity, but I was really struck by the way that the play troubled the relationship between humans and animals, particularly around issues of hierarchy and intimacy. I kept thinking about the work Donna J. Haraway is doing in the area of "posthumanities" around interspecies companionship and encounters. While Equus presents a troubling extreme, the question is still provacative in terms of the kinds of non-normative relationships that develop between humans and animals.

Get tickets. Go.

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