PUBLISHED: 5:20 PM on Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Psychological thriller "Equus" opens at Perseverance Theatre
Perseverance Theatre's artistic director PJ Paparelli wanted to do a show outside, and he thought "Equus" was it. However, with the costs and unknowns of such an attempt, that idea didn't materialize. The show is now playing at Perseverance Theatre.

"Immediately you go, 'oh it's free it's outside." Actually it's not free," Paparelli said. "If you charge for tickets the city charges a fee and then there were concerns about the weather. The amount of money and hassle involved was too much. We didn't want it to ultimately distract from the piece, and the piece is the most important thing."

Courtesy photo
  Brandon Demery as Dysart, Levi Fiehler as Alan Strang and Enrique Bravo as Nugget in "Equus," which is now showing at Perseverance Theatre.
The set of the play is a sandy floor with metal spikes and a 20-foot splatter art painting, Paparelli said.

"We brought the beach inside," he said. "It's very chaotic and violent, which obviously the play is."

"Equus" centers on two characters - a psychiatrist in a midlife crisis and a teenage boy going through similar changes in life.

"The themes of the play are completely universal," Paparelli said.

The plot follows the story of the psychiatrist studying the reason behind a heinous crime - the teen stabbing out the eyes of five horses.

"It's the same reason you would ask yourself why would a kid go into Virginia Tech and do all these shootings. It's so shocking to us because we ask how could this have happened. How could these people get to the point where they make these kinds of decisions? This play is an examination on this boy, and why he did it," Paparelli said.

Courtesy photo
  Brandon Demery as Dysart in "Equus."
The play is a psychological thriller and reveals how the small things in his life affect his behavior.

"Over the course of the piece you start to see all these little things - his parents, his relationship with his parents, his relationship with God, which is a big theme in the play. All these factors come together and point you to why he did it or why you think he did it," Paparelli said. "The bigger question at the heart of 'Equus' is what happens when we remove passion from someone's life. That's really what the play is about. What happens when you take someone's passion - whether it's a God, whether it's a person, whether in this case an animal whatever it is you believe is your reason for being -when that is removed from someone's life what happens. What do they become?"

Paparelli said that while much controversy surrounds "Equus," much of the concern is rumor only.

"There is nudity in the play, but it's very tastefully done behind splatter art wall. The play deals with some disturbing violence and images, but most of the play is this thriller of what happened," Paparelli said. "It's a good look for the community of what happens when a young person doesn't have a healthy way of communicating. Play forces you to think about your life."

The theater has sent study guides out to community to teach people what the show is about, Paparelli said.

Horses are a focus of the show and male actors don giant metal heads and seven-inch hoofs.

"They're towering. The audience is going to be amazed by that," Paparelli said. "They're very real they look amazingly real. It's a challenging play to direct because you've got these horses that are really people in the play. And you've got to give them personalities and the boy develops a relationship, a very intimate friendship with one of the horses so you've got to have this very interesting challenge we've had."