Thursday, October 9, 2008



By Peter Shaffer. Dir. Thea Sharrock. Broadhurst Theatre. (CLOSED)

Once critics got past commenting on Harry Potter's "magic wand," they gave mostly high marks to Daniel Radcliffe's dramatic stage debut in Peter Shaffer's 1973 play about a troubled young man and his therapist. Most also found the play dated, though whether that was a fatal flaw or not mostly depended on what they thought of the production and the supporting cast.

Wall Street Journal A
(Terry Teachout) Equus is as dated as a Nehru jacket...but Mr. Shaffer's solid craftsmanship hasn't aged a day, and the showy theatricality of Thea Sharrock's staging knocks every remaining crumb of rust off the script...As for the large cast, I don't see how it could be improved on...This is, in short, a near-ideal revival of a play that is, for all its obviousness, a consummately effective piece of theater—no masterpiece, but a rattling good show.

(Michael Kuchwara) The screen star of all those Harry Potter movies brings a disarming vulnerability and touching desperation to the role of Alan Strang, the tormented stable boy...Director Thea Sharrock, taking a cue from the original staging, has given the play a compelling, arenalike flavor.

Newsday A-
(Linda Winer) [Radcliffe}, tiny but a commanding feral presence, manages to be both extraordinarily lucid and mysterious as Alan Strang...Equus always was pretty much of a crock—pseudo-serious humanity-on-trial hokum dressed up in mythic profundity. But it remains excellent hokum, spectacularly theatrical. Thea Sharrock's lean and effective production overuses the fog machine but wisely retains John Napier's original costumes and set.

Back Stage A-
(Leonard Jacobs) Griffiths' and Radcliffe's performances evolve organically and in perfect calibration with one another. Equus is a dramatic symphony scintillatingly played...Equus also has flaws that no Harry Potter wizardry can mend.

Variety B+
(David Rooney) Daniel Radcliffe significantly helps overcome the fact that Peter Shaffer's 1975 Tony winner doesn't entirely hold up...Taking her cue from John Dexter's stark original staging and retaining the crucial collaboration of that production's designer, John Napier, director Thea Sharrock correctly understands the play's chief asset is its blazing theatricality.

Philadelphia Inquirer
(Howard Shapiro) The play is a little dated...but Equus remains a solid story about a horrible situation, and this energized staging by Britain's Thea Sharrock—stark in John Napier's monochrome, simple setting—is beautiful for its imaginative use of the surroundings.

Theatermania B+
(David Finkle) The entire presentation vibrates with urgency...extraordinarily well-acted...Where Shaffer...runs into problems is with the negative views on psychiatry that Dysart voices...Still, [Richard] Griffiths' most compelling talent is the erudition with which he imbues Dysart, and which helps make this Equus a riveting night in the theater.

NY1 B+
(Roma Torre) Peter Shaffer's remarkable drama remains essential Broadway viewing. Staged by Thea Sharrock, Equus remains a riveting synthesis of stage craft and theatrical vision...The performances range from the stellar two principal roles to some disappointing acting...Yet the play's virtues remain intact.

Chicago Tribune B
(Chris Jones) Thea Sharrock's production from London is a simple but nonetheless distinctive staging. It moves rapidly, balancing the sometimes-indulgent verbosity of the script...The show is faithful to Shaffer's dramaturgical schemata--handsome, masked men play the equine characters and John Napier's stage design recalls a classical arena...The climax of the show doesn't pack the oomph it might. But many nuggets lie under its surface.

Entertainment Weekly B
(Thom Geier) Daniel Radcliffe has grown into his own as an actor...The stage novice also outpaces his Tony-winning costar, Richard Griffiths...But when the spotlight is on Radcliffe and his interaction with horses...the effect is both primal and electric.

USA Today B
(Elysa Gardner) The good and bad news about the new Broadway revival of Equus with Daniel Radcliffe is that the actor is aging a lot more gracefully than the play...In less able hands, Dysart and Alan might be written off as another gifted but troubled shrink and his gifted but troubled charge, but Griffiths and Radcliffe give them rich, real inner lives.

New York Sun B-
(Eric Grode) Mr. Shaffer's oddly compelling ode to atavism, directed here a bit too flashily by Thea Sharrock...While John Napier's original stage design remains haunting...the staging of Alan's passionate equine encounters relies too heavily on musty psychosexual pageantry. (Ms. Sharrock's corny sound effects and fog machines don't help, though.)

Talkin' Broadway B-
(Matthew Murray) The formless dramaturgy, capped by those avant-garde recollection sequences, looks old hat today...Radcliffe is superb throughout at evoking the hazy frustration that defines Alan's everyday existence. But even when his clothes come off, he never reveals the extraordinary—and terrifying—creature you should see beneath...Griffiths...never falters.

New York Times B-
(Ben Brantley) Making his Broadway debut in Thea Sharrock's oddly arid revival of Peter Shaffer's 'Equus'...the 19-year-old film star Daniel Radcliffe steps into a mothball-preserved, off-the-rack part and wears it like a tailor's delight—that is, a natural fit that allows room to stretch. Would that the production around him, first presented in London, showed off Mr. Shaffer's 1973 psychodrama as flatteringly as it does its stage-virgin star.

New Yorker B-
(John Lahr) The play is written in the most conventional of forms. It’s a rational mousetrap into which subsidiary characters rush with little droppings of information and then scuttle off. There is no space for thought, for dreaming, or for joy—just exposition. Still, it is always a pleasure to be in the company of the wry Mr. Griffiths, a big man with a big heart. The world seems to want to know if the diminutive Radcliffe, the centerpiece of the Harry Potter film franchise, will make it into adulthood with his star intact. The answer is yes. What’s more, in this time of economic crisis he gives new meaning to the term “naked short.”

Daily News C+
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Yes, [Radclliffe is] terrific and gives a passionate performance as Alan Strang, the 17-year-old stable hand who worships—and blinds—six horses. Yes, he's nude in a scene, but not gratuitously. And yes, he's (at least partially) in good company in the revival of Peter Shaffer's play, which intrigues but shows its age...Supporting roles are a mixed lot.

NY Post C+
(Clive Barnes) [Radcliffe]s] acting, beautifully understated and withdrawn, has just the right manner for this horribly mixed-up adolescent, at the prey of a wayward religiosity and a twisted sexuality cemented together with suburban hypocrisy...Thea Sharrock's many respects lacks the power that flowed through John Dexter's original staging.

amNew York C+
(Matt Windman) Oddly, the weakest link is Richard Martin Dysar...Griffiths appears too low-key and apathetic make a difference...While Thea Sharrock's production could have been a bit tighter here and there, Shaffer's drama remains a gripping vehicle of storytelling and debate of modern morality.

Time Out NY C
(David Cote) That lurid, once-shocking material is showing its age, even if it's not quite time for the glue factory. And the uneven cast drags the pace down too often. Griffiths, so sparky and impish in The History Boys, opts for a resigned melancholia...Radcliffe certainly went bold for his stage debut (insanity! nudity!) and he's an energetic presence, but his Alan is flat and shallow.

New York C
(Dan Kois) That he's not terribly convincing isn't really Radcliffe's fault. His Strang is shouty and uncomplicated, and he overplays the weirdness...but he's always compelling to watch...[It's] an old-fashioned play weighed down by its well-made characters, its Jungian dream theory, its Freudian overtones.

Washington Post C
(Peter Marks) This is Radcliffe's first serious stage portrayal, and though his contribution won't blow you away, it does get a basic job done...The doctor is played, fortunately, by the gifted Richard Griffiths...Thus in this erratic revival...there is a core of leading-player technical proficiency. Even though the play itself comes across now as a solemn, stately affair, involving a therapeutic 'mystery' so stuffed with transparent clues that a freshman psychology major could crack it.

Hartford Courant C
(Malcolm Johnson) Daniel Radcliffe, small, nimble and scruffy, bravely leaves the world of Hogwarts to triumph over a play that suffers from pomposity and religio-mythic horseplay...It is a potent performance—though not even this can hide the hollowness of a play that failed as a film that exposed the gimmickry of a long-running hit in London and on Broadway.

NJ Star-Ledger C-
(Michael Sommers) Seasoned naysayers like me are likely to find Peter Shaffer's 1973 drama more of a slog than a sensation...Viewers coming fresh to Shaffer's dark story should expect a potentially powerful mix of psychosexual mystery and surreal theatrics that doesn't quite ignite.

The Hollywood Reporter D
(Frank Scheck) Unfortunately, this revival of Peter Shaffer's landmark 1973 play doesn't manage to bring sufficient life to what is a now-dated and often-plodding psychological drama...[Radcliffe] doesn't quite manage to fully plumb the disturbed depths of the character...As Martin Dysart, the provincial psychiatrist...Griffiths is deeply disappointing...Director Thea Sharrock's staging is similarly listless.

Wall Street Journal A 13; AP A 13; Newsday A- 12; Back Stage A- 12; Variety B+ 11; Philadelphia Inquirer B+ 11; Theatermania B+ 11; NY1 B+ 11; Chicago Tribune B 10; Entertainment Weekly B 10; USA Today B 10; New York Sun B- 9; Talkin' Broadway B- 9; New York Times B- 9; New Yorker B- 9; Daily News C+ 8; NY Post C+ 8; amNew York C+ 8; Time Out NY C 7; New York C 7; Washington Post C 7; Hartford Courant C 7; NJ Star-Ledger C- 6; The Hollywood Reporter D 5; TOTAL: 223 / 24 = 9.29 (B-)

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