Hard Bargain Players EquusBy Mari Davis • Aug 11th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Hard Bargain Players
Hard Bargain Amphitheater, Accokeek, MD
Through August 21
About 2:00 with one intermission
$10/$8 Students, Seniors, AFF members
Reviewed August 6th, 2010
Equus is a compelling story that drives from its opening scene right through to the end. Director David M. Thomas did a fabulous job drawing out the important elements, creating unity throughout the show, and cultivating characters that were real and believable.
The plot follows Dr. Martin Dysart (David James), a psychiatrist searching for the source of a client’s unusual obsession. Seventeen year-old Alan Strang (Rob White) loves horses with religious zeal, but blinded the six horses at the ranch where he worked. Dr. Dysart must pull the story from Alan, but the more he learns, the more he begins to envy the boy’s overwhelming passion.
David James and Rob White gave excellent performances. They worked very well together. Each man had obviously put effort into creating solid characters that expertly jockeyed the play to its thought-provoking conclusion.
The production had few technical bells or whistles. Few costume changes, simple set pieces, and dramatic lighting indicators kept the pace at a brisk canter throughout the show.
Set designer Randy Sena created a theater-in-the-round in the normal seating area, so some of the audience can be seated on the normal staging area. The cast was responsible for moving three benches into various formations to indicate different locations. Most often these could be moved while characters talked, which created seamless transitions between scenes. A circle in the center of the platform was painted a lighter color than the rest of the set. The actors seemed to avoid it, but it was unclear whether the shape had any significance to the show.
Lighting was especially well utilized in Equus. The design by April D. Weimer created a clear visual delineation between current and remembered events. The excellent execution of the effects was a superb asset to the show.
A less-successful hurdle for the show was in the color scheme. Many actors wore neutral colors, such as brown or tan. This wouldn’t be a big deal if the entire stage wasn’t brown already, but characters have a tendency to fade into the environment, even while onstage.
The least successful aspect of the show was its inaudibility. Because the venue does not have great acoustics, when actors turned away from any portion of the audience they became nearly inaudible, especially if an audience member was sitting near a fan. Make sure you arrive early and sit close to the stage.
The Hard Bargain Players perform in an amphitheater at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek, MD. Remember to bring bug repellent for this outdoor theater experience. Also, keep some cash on hand if you want beer, wine, cookies, or soda — available for donations. The theater has some special parking accommodations for wheelchair users, so call ahead if you need to take advantage of that, especially since there aren’t many floor seats to this show.
Equus has some mature themes and simulated sex that includes male nudity — definitely not a show for kids. However, the excellent demonstration of minimalist theater coupled with a well-performed and thought-provoking script makes this an excellent conversation piece.
Peter Shaffer’s Equus tells the story of Dr. Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man, Alan Strang, suffering from an unnatural and pathological religious and sexual fascination with horses. Alan Strang has blinded six horses in a violent fit of passion – a passion as foreign to Dysart and the act itself. To the boy’s parents, it is a hideous mystery – Alan has always adored horses. For Dysart, already riddled with self-doubt, it opens a psychological Pandora’s Box that leads both doctor and patient to a complex and disturbingly dramatic confrontation.
- Dr. Martin Dysart: David James
- Alan Strang: Rob White
- Nurse: Joselle Gilpin
- Hester Salomon: Kaylene Lewek
- Frank Strang: Neil Twohig
- Dora Strang: Catherine Gallagher
- Horseman/Nugget: Jivon Lee Jackson
- Harry Dalton: Randy Sena
- Jill Mason: Melissa Gilpin
- Horses: Jackie Burson, Sean Michael Fraser
- Director: David M. Thomas
- Stage Manager: Dave Cost
- Lighting Design: April D. Weimer
- Master Carpenter and Set Designer: Randy Sena
- Set Crew: Richard Gilpin, David Thomas
- Set Painting: David Thomas
- Set Decoration/Props: Full Cast
- Sound Design: Draper Carter
- Costume Design and Seamstress: Sherry Santana & Bill Graves
- Horse Head design/Construction: Bill Graves
- Hair & Make-up Design: Sherry Santana
- Choreography/Fight Choreography: Sean Michael Fraser
- Publicity: Doris Sharp
- House Management: April D. Weimer
Disclaimer: Hard Bargain Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/5386.
Mari Davis is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.