Directed by Wayne Shaw
Produced by Ludicrous Theatre Company
At BoHo Theatre/Heartland Studio, Chicago
Nudity rains in uneven production
I question many of the directorial decisions and casting choices made by Wayne Shaw in his sensual production of Peter Shaffer’s psychological drama Equus. This is not anything like the fabulous production by Redtwist Theatre in 2007 staring Peter Oyloe (Alan) and Brian Parry (Dysart). One could call Ludicrous’ production the “nude” Equus production because of the constant full frontal male nudity used throughout. I can’t see the artistic value of having Justin Landry playing ‘Nugget’ the horse completely nude facing the audience except for a horse-like wire mask for the entire play. I applaud the bravery of Landry in that thankless role.
Set in Nevada in contemporary times, Equus is the story of why a timid 20 year old boy who loved horses would suddenly blind 6 of them with a metal claw. Alan Strong (Ian McCabe) is sent to be treated by a brilliant psychologist Dr. Martin Dysart (Kevin Heller). Alan is a challenge for Dysart as he quickly become overwhelmed by Alan’s stare and his passion. Treating Alan allows Dysart to deal with his own demons as he tries to ‘cure’ Alan.
In most productions of Equus, either the play becomes Dysart’s play (as in the recent Redtwist production) or Alan and Dysart’s play as in the 2007 Redtwist production. In this Equus, it surly is Alan’s play as Ian McCabe’s gusty, rivetingly chilling and brave performance as Alan totally dominates. McCabe has that “look” and the pent-up passion that moves Alan from a timid boy to a explosive sexual-religious fanatic who sees God in the horses he cares for. McCabe’s fully entrancing performance complete with three nude scenes emphasis the sexual tension that the boy feels toward the horses. In most productions of Equus, the only nude scene happens when Alan tries to have sex with Jill (Kristen Bjorge) but director Wayne Shaw has chosen to have Nugget be a nude guy and have Alan get nude in three scenes. The act one ending scene where Alan recreates his midnight rides with Nugget comes close to being too graphic since both actors are naked and simulated foundling and sexual release occurs.
I thought the support cast was weak to adequate but I had a real problem with Kevin Heller’s dull, stoic and bland performance as the psychologist Dr. Martin Dysart. Try as he did, unfortunately Kevin Heller was miscast. He lacks the articulation, the stage presence and the persona to be believable. I never once thought Heller had the command of his character. Often he stood with drooping shoulder and his head down as he droned his lines. The show suffered greatly as there is no chemistry between Alan and Dysart. Heller mumbled several of Dysart’s key monologues reducing the internal emotional conflict that he was experiencing.
If there is a reason to see this show, it is in the terrific performance by Ian McCabe as Alan. There is also lots of male nudity for those who appreciate it. With a stronger supporting cast and a more dynamic Dysart, Ludicrous Theatre’s Equus could be a fine production.
Ludicrous Theatre Company presents “Equus” at BoHo’s Heartland Theatre, located at 7016 N. Glenwood Avenue in Chicago. The play runs 2 hours 40 minutes with intermission. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. There are no performances October 29-31. Tickets are $15.