Powerful and visceral, the Morgan-Wixson Theatre production of Equus features potent acting and gorgeous staging as it reveals the story of a young man’s obsession with horses. It dramatizes how passionate and freeing the primitive can be, while the present day can be stultifying and bland.
Child psychiatrist Dr. Dysart (Derek Long) is appointed to examine why a mad young man (Andrew Villarreal) blinded six horses. Initially recalcitrant, Alan eventually reveals the depths of his agony and ecstasy to the searching, defeated Dysart. Can the doctor find answers to Alan’s despair and discover sanctuary for himself?
Long and Villarreal give ferocious, expressive performances. Long brings both sensitivity and intensity to the questioning doctor, while Villarreal brings an innocent but overwhelming passion to the young Alan. They are almost opposite sides of the same coin. The entire cast also gives energetic and sympathetic performances.
Director Madeleine Dahm masterfully creates a timeless search for sexual, intellectual and religious freedom in this knockout production. Her use of stylized movement and striking visuals add an emotional and metaphoric wallop. Women in brown body suits function as Godlike horse statues, Alan’s object of worship.
Production work is also outstanding, from the spot-on dramatic lighting to the simple costumes and spare set pieces. A huge, hypnotic portrait of a horse dominates the stage, the God around which all action flows.
Equus features nudity and strong language, but is a truly moving evening of theatre.
The Morgan-Wixson Theatre presents Equus Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Oct. 9 at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre located at 2627 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica. Parking is available at the family clinic just down the street. Tickets cost $18; $15 for students and seniors. Please call (310) 828-7519, or visit www.morgan-wixson.org for information or ticket purchase.