Sunday, July 11, 2010

Equus (Repertory Philippines)


Seventeen year old boy blinds six horses, sings commercial jingles, and shrieks in a high pitched voice. Equus is not a glitzy song and dance production on stage. In fact it is a play with a lot of talk, mostly very long monologues from the psychiatrist, combined with spontaneous chatter from a deranged teenager. This, along with a glimpse on the darker side of the human psyche, makes this play as gripping and disturbing as it is.

The nudity involved does not come as a surprise, and is not at all staged in an indecent manner. It must be pretty hard for the stage actors involved to strip down onstage as part of a live performance. For that, kudos to Marco Mañalac and Pheona Baranda for mustering the courage to do such a stunt. The professionalism displayed very much deserved the applause.

Miguel Faustmann is perhaps the best pick for the psychiatrist. How could someone memorize all those lengthy and boring monologues and present it onstage without sounding unnatural nor unsympathetic? It could very well be said that he gave the best performance of the night if only based on the louder applause he got. But aside from that he is also able to humanize his role, instead of just going the easy way and portraying it as the stereotypical shrink.

I would go as far as to classify this as a psychological thriller. The sounds used, the music, they are all effective in creating an eerie atmosphere. The lighting does help set the mood as if one is drawn into the mind of Alan Strang himself. The subject matter itself, the whole Equine Worship thing, dark. However, all these are balanced out by the drama involved provided by the psychiatrist, a peek at his personal life, and his empathy towards the boy. So it is not all that dark.

Another bonus perhaps, is the plot itself. The whole thing is not presented in a chronological manner. There are a lot of flashbacks involved realized through vivid reenactment of scenes right then and there coupled with audio and light effects that make it all surreal. The answers to the principal questions, most notably the why ones, slowly unfold as the mystery of the characters' personalities are also gradually revealed. And since the setting is in a psychiatric consultation clinic, this setup does not seem at all contrived.

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