Martin Dysart (Michael Kramer) is a child psychiatrist going through the motions of what he calls “career menopause,” when his good friend Hesther Salomon, (Kathleen Akerley), a court magistrate, brings him the troubling case of a teenage boy who violently blinded six horses. As Dysart tries to unravel the complex motivations and psychology of young Alan Strang (Ross Destiche,) the older man becomes more and more fascinated with the boy’s passions, problems, and his religious devotion to the horses he eventually brutalized.
It has been a while since I have been to a Constellation show, but their 2011 Ramayana remains one of my favorite theatre experiences in my time in DC. So I was intrigued to see what the company would do with Equus, a show I have always thought of as very talky and very British and not so full of the “visual spectacle, music and movement” on which Constellation Theatre Company pride themselves.
Happily, I was proven very wrong. This production of Equus is a dark and beautiful spectacle of beautifully-choreographed movement (by Mark Jaster), and effective and engrossing sound design and music (Palmer Hefferan.) Staged on a gorgeous, alley style (audience on both sides!) set by A.J. Guban with intricately-detailed costumes by Erik Teague, the piece manages to be both epic and intensely personal.
It is in the moments that the play is less concrete that the production really shines; the scenes between Kramer and Destiche, where Dysart is trying to pull and push Strang into revealing the twisted details of his recent past, are compelling, and the scenes in which Strang relives his past with the Horseman (Ryan Tumulty), his friend Jill (Emily Kester), and his father (Michael Tolaydo) are a wonderful combination of the concrete and the fantastic.
January 13- February 14, 2016
1835 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
1 hour, 45 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $20 – $45
Thursdays thru Sundays
Check for discounts
However, it is the scenes that are less spectacular, scenes in living rooms and offices, or when Dysart directly addresses the audience, that the production falls a little flat. One exception to this are the scenes between Dysart and Hesther Salomon, which manage to give a lovely depth to both characters outside their relationship with Alan Strang.
Special praise should be given to the members of the Horse Ensemble: Tori Bertocci, Gwen Grastorf, Ashley Ivey, Ryan Alan Jones, Emily Whitworth, and Ryan Tumulty. The intense choreography of their movement and the sounds they create are a stunning asset to the production, helping to bring the audience closer to the danger and excitement of Alan’s relationship with Equus, his horse god.
While not necessarily sheer perfection, the highest highs of this production make up for the low points that really aren’t all that low. Committed performances and masterful design make Constellation Theatre Company’s Equus well worth seeing.
Equus by Peter Shaffer . Directed by Amber McGinnis Jackson . Featuring Michael Kramer, Karina Hilleard, Kathleen Akerley, Ross Destiche, Michael Tolaydo, Laureen E. Smith, Ryan Tumulty, Colin Smith, Emily Kester, Tori Bertocci, Gwen Grastorf, Ashley Ivey, Ryan Alan Jones, and Emily Whitworth . Set and Lightening Design: A.J. Guban . Sound Design and Composition: Palmer Hefferan . Costume Design: Erik Teauge . Properties Design: Lauren Klamm . Movement Consultation: Mark Jaster . Dialect Coaching: Elizabeth van den Berg . Stage Manager: Cheryl Ann Gnerlich. Produced by Constellation Theatre Company. Reviewed by Jessica Pearson.