Is feeling passion worth having to feel pain? Should you sacrifice individuality to be “normal” in society? Can religion warp a person? What about sex? And why does that actor have his hand down his pants?
Generic Theatre’s latest play, “Eqqus,” asks and attempts to answer these questions and many others. But it does so with varying degrees of success.
The play’s title comes from the Latin word for horse, which is apt since most of the play revolves around horses and the feelings one boy has for them. The play opens with 17-year-old Alan Strang (Brian Elerding) going to a mental hospital after blinding six horses with a metal spike. While in the hospital, Alan is under the care of Dr. Martin Dysart (Craig Geiling).
The remainder of the play takes the form of a long psychotherapy session as Dysart tries to understand why Alan blinded the horses and attempts to figure out how to help him. At the stable, Dysart talks with Alan’s parents (Chris Hahn and Cody Lindquist) and his boss (Rory Haiber). Through these conversations and Dysart’s own work with Alan, audience members relive the event and understand what drove Alan to blind the horses.
Director Troy Miller does a commendable job of conveying the story. The minimal one-platform stage, a few chairs and several poles force the audience to focus on the characters instead of staring at the set and scenery. The lighting and sound change with the mood of the scene to create different atmospheres and evoke various feelings.
One of the best uses of the noteworthy special effects occurs in the climactic scene when the audience learns how Alan committed the horrific act. A low hum fills the room before the blinding of the horses actually takes place, giving the scene a menacing, foreboding feel. When the action happens, flashes of light add to the fear and confusion.
The six characters playing the horses wear wire horse heads. The masks blur the distinction between man and beast, an important point in the play. The actors give sympathetic performances, immersing themselves in their characters.
Most of the production’s problems arise from the story itself and not Generic’s performance. The play is broken up by Dysart’s monologues. The interruptions slow the forward flow of the play and remove the audience from the story. Also, several things happen on the stage simultaneously – Dysart’s therapy session with Alan, a conversation between Alan’s parents, and a flashback. With everything taking place in such a small area, the play becomes confusing at times.
These small problems aside, “Eqqus” is worth seeing. Its unique subject matter and staging set it apart from other plays and offer a chance to see a different type of theater production.