To stage a play such as Equus with its complex story line is already a tall order. Repertory Philippines accomplished the daunting task with flair and finesse. Peter Shaffer’s story is of a therapist, Martin Dysart, who comes across what he initially described as a ‘usual unusual’ boy, Alan Strang, who blinded six horses. The play goes on in a series of expositions and flashbacks to unravel the root and reason of Strang’s crime.
The stage was bare and as raw as its material– being almost empty save for a platform, a few benches, and five inconspicuous versatile prop doors for added effect. There were no elaborate costumes, no real horses, no actual props, no color, no production numbers to hide behind and yet one feels so utterly transported into the mind and the scenery being described through the exposition.
In true Repertory Philippines fashion, every bit of the play was top caliber: from the staging and cast down to minute details such as adapting British accents. It was like witnessing an indie film and an art piece come to life. The stage, stripped down to its bare essentials, the actors had nothing to hide behind. They only had their craft as their tool to deliver the strong and deep emotions called for by their respective characters. And deliver they did.
Red Concepcion was superb as Alan Strang– playing the complex role with an air of dark childishness to encapsulate how deep his obsession penetrated his psyche. He effectively took the audiences into a roller coaster of emotions. He held nothing back, and literally, fearlessly baring it all as his role dictated him. Miguel Faustmann was a sight to behold as Dr. Dysart. With the huge bulk of the story’s exposition resting on his shoulders, he seemed to effortlessly channel what the doctor might feel in relation to what his patient was recalling.
The material itself was filled with dark irony– Alan’s father’s strong disdain for his family’s religiousness while introducing his son to the object of his obsession, Dysart’s duty to eradicate the cause of Alan’s suffering while envying Alan’s capability of worship and so many more.
Equus is a feast for the intellect. It does not close itself to a single lesson. It shows both religiosity as a fanatic perversion and an enviable trait. One can take what one wishes to take away from the play but most of all, it is a testament to the quality of Philippine theater.