‘Equus’ pulls on all emotions

By Rachel Williams, staff reporter

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If you are looking for drama, passion, psychological intrigue, mental unraveling and full-frontal nudity, then “Equus”is the play for you. Oakland Universitys Music, Theatre and Dance production did not disappoint and kept audience members thinking until the final scene. 


The play follows Dr. Martin Dysart of the Rokeby Psychiatric Hospital as he accepts a new patient, Alan Strang.  Strang came to the hospital following a violent outburst in which he blinded six horses at the stable for which he worked. 


The story digs deep into Strangs reverent and unhealthy obsession with horses and examines Dysarts own psychological pain. The entire crew gave such a convincing performance that audience members could not help but be swept up into the emotional and psychological turmoil of the two main characters. 


Brandon Santana, who played two separate characters, the Horseman and Nugget (one of the stables horses) in the production, commented on the shows complexity as well as the need for physical and emotional strength.


Going into this, I didnt expect how much strength was involved, and it was great shock, Santana said. “’Equus’was definitely one of the most challenging shows for me because its demanding in all types of ways. Theres a height of vulnerability, strength, passion and high stakes at play here.


Physical strength came into play for the cast members who played the horses.  They wore raised, steel sandals which weighed a few pounds and metal horse heads.  Santana even carried around Ian Turnwald, who played Alan Strang, on his shoulders in several scenes when Strang rode Nugget.


Turnwald strips down completely for the climactic scene in which Alan Strang comes to face his horse idol, Equus, and ultimately blinds six horses. 


Cast and crew expended all their energy into creating an all-encompassing world for the audience members to rest in for a couple hours.  Chris OMeara, scenic designer, explained that the turntable set was designed to incite ideas of both a barn and boxing ring where viewers could watch the two separate minds, Dysart and Strang, metaphorically battle. 


The set was moved between scenes to signify a change in scenery for audience members and was incorporated at times to add energy to the actors already climactic performances. 


We really delved deep into the script and into the characters, particularly Alan and Dysart, to pick apart their worlds and this energy, OMeara said. 


Beyond the two main characters, the entire cast was obviously committed to their respective roles. Incredible makeup transformed 20-year-old students into middle-aged men, and the emotional performances catapulted viewers into Rokeby Psychiatric Hospital. 


Following the production, audience members will leave with many questions and not so many answers concerning mental stability, religion and the concept of pain. 


The play deals with suppression of spiritual beliefs, its consequences and sanity versus insanity and how society perceives it, Santana explained. I hope that audience members leave with an understanding of how important it is to listen to each other and to try to understand each other.


The production runs from Nov. 12-22 in the Varner Studio Theatre.  Tickets are $15 general admission and $8 for students. Visit OUs MTD web page for more information.