During December, the Philosophy and Theater Group read Equus
by Peter Schaffer, and last Saturday group members Phillip C., Theo Monk, Jesse R., Carlos Franke and myself discussed the play over a recorded Skype call which has been posted PEL Citizens on the Free Stuff page.
Equus is a fictional account of a real-life incident in which a young man blinded six horses with a hoof pick.Â With just this and no more as his starting point, Schaffer invented the characters of an aloof young man named Alan Strang and a successful psychiatrist named Martin Dysart.Â Dysart is convinced by a colleague to treat Strang, and quickly becomes fascinated with Strang’s intimate worship of a highly personal god, Equus, who exists for him in all horses.Â Troubled by his persistent inability to entirely account for Equus and envying Alan’s vigor, Dysart begins to doubt the authority of his practice.Â He’s making progress with Alan’s treatment, but he’s also cracking up, and his monologues, which are delivered straight toward the audience, feature some of the play’s most poetic moments.
During our talk, we tried to sort out what it meant for Dysart to take away Alan’s worship and to normalize him through psychiatry.Â Much in the play seems to suggest that this is a sort of crime.Â Like any decent piece of theater,Â EquusÂ doesn’t try to make its points through words alone, and we spent some time discussing the play’s unique use of stage space, costumes, chronology and set design.Â For instance, members of the cast sit on benches surrounding Dysart when not in the scenes, adding to the impression that he and his approach to treating Alan are on trial throughout the play.Â The masked actors playing the horses are also used as a chorus to give certain moments an ominous or reverent air.Â All in all, the play made good fodder for the group’s first discussion.
– Daniel Cole