Wednesday, January 30, 2013

60-second review: EQUUS (Curio)

Writing for websites, word count isn't much of an issue, so I wanted to challenge myself to write a couple concise reviews. Here's the second, on Peter Shaffer's classic EQUUS, now onstage in West Philadelphia.
Equus,Peter Shaffer's EQUUS premiered in 1973, and its age shows. A psycho-sexual exploration of insanity, spirituality, and conformity, it continues to appeal to generations of teenagers who identify with Alan Strang (Eric Scolati), a troubled teen committed to an institute for blinding six horses. Once risque, its sexual undertones now veer to passe; once profound, its condemnation of society's progress and consideration of mental illness feel naive. Curio Theatre Company's technically brilliant production (another great set by Paul Kuhn) makes little attempt to update the work. Nevertheless, fine performances by Scolati, Kuhn (as psychiatrist Martin Dysart), and especially Isa St. Clair (in too-brief scenes as love interest Jill Mason) engage, though performance levels drop off in minor roles. And Shaffer's work—a snapshot of 1970s theater rather than an enduring masterpiece—contains depth and philosophy enough for hours of after-show discussion.
Jan 23-Feb 16. curiotheatre.org/equus.html

60-second review: THE AMISH PROJECT (Simpatico/Renegade)


Writing for websites, word count isn't much of an issue, so I wanted to challenge myself to write a couple concise reviews. Here's the first, on Jessica Dickey's THE AMISH PROJECT, closing this weekend.
After a solid run from upstart Renegade Company, THE AMISH PROJECT is getting a revamped co-production with star indie company, Simpatico Theatre Project. Janice Rowland repeats her virtuoso one-woman performance embodying several characters intimately involved in the 2006 Amish schoolhouse massacre. Given added poignancy and relevance by the recent Newtown shooting, THE AMISH PROJECT is an "important" work, with all the heaviness and baggage that implies. It's easy to get drama and emotion from such an obvious tragedy, but it's also easy to lose sight of the real humans involved. Fortunately, Jessica Dickey's script never feels sentimental or pedagogical, instead capturing complex emotion and psychology in characters ranging from young schoolgirls to the killer himself. Much improved production values in the new staging give deserved respect to a nuanced script and stellar acting performance. Jan 15-Feb 3.  simpaticotheatre.org/landing/season/the-amish-project/