This afternoon I attended a matinee performance of Peter Shaffer's emotionally riveting play, Equus, at the Nearly Naked Theatre in downtown Phoenix. The play is a superior piece of writing, and the local actors at the Nearly Naked did both themselves and the material proud.
Equus focuses on the psychiatric in-patient treatment of 17-year-old Alan Strang who has been committed to a mental health institution after he blinded six horses (by stabbing their eyes) at a local riding stable. Alan is a troubled youth (obviously) who has led a sheltered existence while being raised by a Bible-thumping mother and an atheist father, a couple who are almost as unhappy in their marriage as the institutional psychiatrist, Dr. Dysart, is in his. The story of what actually drove the young man to blind the horses is slowly peeled back like an onion, layer after layer, by the unrelenting psychiatrist who, in the process, begins to examine his own life.
Fifteen very strong actors graced the stage during this presentation, including six who portrayed horses. The two central characters, Alan and Dr. Dysart, (portrayed by Devon Nickel and David Weiss respectively), were nothing short of amazing. Their "sessions" were intense, with an abundance explosive dialogue and actions. Mr. Nickel's electric portrayal of the troubled youth was made more challenging by the fact that he had to perform several of the more pivotal scenes in the nude.
The production of Equus by the Nearly Naked Theatre was a stunning achievement. The troupe took a great play and made it their own.