It's clear why stage companies are still turning to Peter Shaffer's "Equus" 20 years after its premiere. This stylized drama is not only a showpiece for a tightly knit ensemble of talented actors; it's also a tremendously effective piece of theater.

It’s clear why stage companies are still turning to Peter Shaffer’s “Equus” 20 years after its premiere. This stylized drama is not only a showpiece for a tightly knit ensemble of talented actors; it’s also a tremendously effective piece of theater.

Neither the characterizations nor the themes go very deep; this play’s pleasures lie pretty much on the surface. But director Jules Aaron and the West Coast Ensemble polish that often-stunning surface until it shines.

The story concerns Alan Strang, a lad from the English countryside who blinds six horses one night in a wild rage. As a psychiatrist wallowing his way through a midlife crisis of epic porportions tries to discover the reasons for the rampage, he simultaneously confronts the passionless nature of his own existence.

Aaron’s production is a virtual carbon copy of the original, from the stark set to the metal horse heads worn by actors who mimic the movement of the animals. We’ve seen it all before. And yet, it’s been some time since we’ve seen it done with such subtlety and attention to nuance.

As the therapist, Ian Buchanan has a wonderfully rich voice and properly world-weary manner. While Jack Noseworthy as Alan and Rajia Baroudi as a girl who attempts to seduce him strip naked on stage, he seems to strip himself naked emotionally, expressing his character’s grief and sorrow with an almost frightening intensity.

The supporting cast is, for the most part, equally superb. Noseworthy and Baroudi never strike a single false note, and Frank Ashmore and Gammy Singer are both monstrous and touchingly vulnerable as Alan’s defensive, bewildered parents.

Equus

West Coast Ensemble, Hollywood; 99 seats; $20 top

Production

West Coast Ensemble, under the artistic direction of Les Hanson, presents a play in two acts by Peter Shaffer; director, Jules Aaron; producer, James Thomas Bailey.

Creative

Lighting, Tom Ruzika, Lonnie Alcarez; sound design, Jon Gottlieb; costumes, Ted Giammona; assistant director, Kerry Haynie. Opened June 25, 1993; reviewed July 9; runs through Aug. 15.

Cast

Martin Dysart - Ian Buchanan
Alan Strang - Jack Noseworthy
Frank Strang - Frank Ashmore
Dora Strang - Gammy Singer
Hesther Salomon - Karen Tarleton
Jill Mason - Rajia Baroudi
Harry Dalton - Tony Pandolfo
Horseman/Nugget - Christopher B. Duncan
Nurse - Alison Vail
Horses - Darnell Davis, Fred Slegers, James Ward, Jeff Davis

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