Equus on Broadway does not Disappoint
Having had the privilege of seeing Equus at the Broadhurst Theatre this past weekend, I wanted to take a few moments to share some of my thoughts on the play with you. At this point, I don’t feel any great need to compare the New York production to the London one as the staging is mostly similar and the acting was excellent in both cases.
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I did however prefer Gabrielle Reidy, who played Dora Strang in London, to Carolyn McCormick who plays the part in New York, simply because Ms. McCormick tends to over project when she speaks, thus making her sound somewhat unnatural at times. Other than that, the cast members worked well as an ensemble: Anna Camp did a great job as the feisty Jill, perky and confident when needed and heartbreakingly devastated and frightened when confronted by Alan Strang and his demons in the climactic stable scene, and Richard Griffiths reprised his role as Martin Dysart with the smoothness and aplomb expected of a seasoned stage veteran. Having read mixed reviews about her performance, I was pleasantly surprised by Kate Mulgrew as Hesther Saloman; she is a gracious lady, and this is conveyed in her acting.
I would like to single out Lorenzo Pisoni, who plays the part of the Young Horseman and Nugget, for his wonderfully comedic line delivery and admirable strength in the scenes where he is running around with Daniel on his back or shoulders. The man is indeed a charismatic powerhouse, but for all his muscular bulk he is an incredibly graceful dancer and perfect in his dual roles.
The unsung star of Equus, even more so in New York than in London, remains the incredible mix of mood setting lighting and sound used throughout the play. Sitting in the first row of the mezzanine, I was treated to a veritable feast for the senses thanks to the intricately clever use of lights, dry ice and sound: Dan’s back-lit silhouette starkly projected onto one of the stable walls, the sensual tableau of Alan Strang embracing Nugget while bathed in soft blue light and surrounded by swirls of smoke and haunting music, the disturbing image of the reflective metal horse’s head hanging menacingly over Alan’s bed, the site of Nugget standing poised and proud over one of the many lit vents on the stage, and the striking visuals of Dan as Alan riding atop Nugget with his arms open wide and a look of pained ecstasy on his face, illuminated from above like some sort of heavenly apparition, or huddled and crying after blinding the horses, at once beautiful and exposed, with the play of lights making his compactly muscled body look like a finely sculpted alabaster statue.
Daniel Radcliffe never ceases to surprise me and, since London, has moved forward by leaps and bounds. I am not implying in any way that his performances in the West End production of Equus were not wonderful, especially for someone who had never done any really serious theatre acting before, but Dan now appears amazingly at home on stage; he projects his voice clearly but never unnaturally, is a formidable presence on stage even when not called upon to act, and his timing and delivery are impeccable. The famous horse blinding choreography at the end of the play may have been somewhat altered, but those who were impressed by this incredible sequence of movements in London will be even more so now as Dan not only rebounds off the walls of the horses’ stalls with incredible alacrity and height, but also ends up running amongst the panic stricken animals as they prance around blindly, missing being stamped on by those razor sharp metal hooves by mere centimeters in the melee. A veritable tour de force, all thanks to the totally amazing work of choreographer Fin Walker.
What more can I say? Stark, thought-provoking and beautifully acted, Equus does not disappoint.