“Equus:" A Theatrical and Cinematic Comparison College

“The normal is the good smile in a child's eyes. It is also the dead stare in a million adults.”

– Peter Schaffer

As the deeply conflicted psychiatrist Dysart, Richard Griffiths delivers this line with wonderful restraint to an audience in the new Broadway revival of Peter Schaffer’s 1973 play, “Equus,” directed by Thea Sharrock. Essentially a psychosexual mystery, the play introduces the case of Alan Strang (Danielle Radcliffe) within the first few minutes—a disturbed 17-year-old who violently blinds six horses one night with a metal spike. A sympathetic magistrate (Kate Mulgrew) places Alan under the treatment of Dysart, who, for the entirety of the play, seeks to discover the dark motives behind the boy’s apparently senseless crime. As the boy and doctor play cat and mouse in their sessions to discover more about each other, the sexual and religious confusion that led up to that chilling night is deconstructed into a twisted mix of incidents, puritanical and authoritarian upbringing, and profoundly passionate worship.

Sidney Lumet’s 1977 film adaptation of “Equus,” starring Richard Burton as Dysart and Peter Firth as Alan, stays true to this narrative...

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