Saturday, January 26, 2019

Equus—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland

            The Price of Passion

    Equus—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland
This intense, adult drama is written by Peter Shaffer and directed by Tobias Andersen.  It is playing at their space, upstairs at 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (just off Lombard, small, free parking lot across the street), through February 10th.  For more information, go to their site at

    Oddly, I’m reminded now of a silly vampire flick, where the lead blood-sucker professes at his end, “In a world without Passion, it is better to be dead!”  But, from that unlikely source, it does connect to this serious story.  Those, as the sane and rational, do pay a price for that “privilege.”  In order to be accepted, to become part of the “Norm,” they may sacrifice their individuality…the essence of what makes them unique from others.  True Artists easily recognize that specialness and fully embrace it, knowing that much of Society may shun us.  But, one always has a choice, to stand apart and be proud, or to be one of the multitudes of lemmings and follow the masses into the abyss.  Which are you?!

    A doctor’s responsibility, to put it simplistically, is to take away pain and give a person as normal a life as possible.  But his job, according to his oath, is to “first, do no harm.”  Ah, “therein, lies the rub.”  How does one define, “normal” and what would be considered, doing “harm?”  Does “normal” mean going along with how the majority of people see the world and using that as a basis?  And if you take away pain, does that really mean you have done “no harm?”  These are the dilemmas that Dr. Martin Dysart (Christopher Massey) faces, as we all do through our journeys through Life.

    Alan Strang (Skye McLaren Walton) has been sent to him by Dysart’s caring friend, a magistrate, Hester (Crystal Lemons) who, rather than passing legal judgment on this teen, who has blinded six horses, wants Dysart to discover the reason for this bizarre behavior and “take away his pain.”  Dysart, overworked and dealing with a failed marriage himself, agrees, maybe feeling that more work will ease the numbness of his own personal life.  And so, Doctor and patient confront each other across a chasm, each dealing with their own fears.

    The doctor certainly has a bag of “tricks” to get the boy to talk, like playing games, using medical stimuli, interviewing the parents, his religious mother Dora (Rebecca Morse) and authoritarian father, Frank (Greg Prosser), his former boss at the stables, Harry (Jim Butterfield), and playing good cop/bad cop with Alan, etc…  He gets feedback from Alan’s nurse (Georgia Ketchmark) and discovers the last person Alan was with before the horrendous act, his possible girlfriend, the free-spirited, Jill (Lydia Ellis-Curry). 

    Through it all, there is the figure of Nugget (Jeff Giberson), Alan’s favorite horse, who seems to hover on the sidelines, like a ghostly figure, seeming to nudge/nuzzle the process of freedom/madness (?) onward, with his cohort equines (Jason Fox, Will Futterman, Christie Quinn & Maddie Gourlay).  He finally devises a way to get the truth of what happened that night from him but the results are not what he expected and may be more horrifying than what he imagined!  For more of the story, you must see it for yourself.

    The set (Jim Butterfield) and lighting (Robin Pair) are very effective in enhancing the show.  Also, the masks of the horses (no actual credit given) are exceptional.  It should be noted that there is full nudity in this play, as well as frank discussion about sex and violence, so be warned if that offends you.
Andersen is a marvel as an actor with the many shows he has enacted over the 50+ years in shows biz.  And he is easily, not only one of the best in the acting arena, also a master of direction, picking just the right cast and easily speaking their “language.”  The notable thing about this interpretation is that it is very natural, a signature of his directing/acting approach, I believe.  It works very well here as each of the characters has an easy flow of naturalism in their characters and it works beautifully.  Kudos to the Master!

    Massey has an effective way of underplaying the Doctor, which gives him an air of being on the road to discovery for himself as well.  Giberson & Equine company are appropriately menacing and eerie, as the mask marauders.  And Ellis-Curry is attractive and does a nice job of not playing up the tartness that is often found when approaching this character but allowing her just to be a regular girl, who is newly experience sex and discovering herself…again a natural approach.  Hope to see her again onstage.

    But special kudos to Walton as the boy, who is a real find and is explosive in the role of a young man teetering on madness.  His modulated performance, as he balances rage, wonder, vulnerability and pain, all very convincingly.  He is someone to watch for in future productions.

    I highly recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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