The Normal is the good smile in a child’s eyes- all right. It is also the dead stare in a million adults. It both sustains and kills- like a God. It is the Ordinary made beautiful; it is also the Average made lethal. The Normal is the indispensable, murderous God of Health.
It’s fitting that one of my favorite quotes should come from one of my all-time favorite plays. I’ve read Peter Shaffer’s Equus countless times, saw the same production two nights in a row, and watched the film version with Richard Burton. It’s one of the few works that just never get stale for me and one I’m constantly on the lookout to see again. Opportunities to do so arose with poor timing. In May there was a production at the Place des Arts in Montreal, but I was spending a long weekend of music in Ohio. This past weekend, I was torn between seeing Equus or Gypsy on Broadway. Being rather familiar with Equus, I opted for the latter and the chance to see Patti LuPone on stage. Really, I have no regrets. If I had time (and money) to see both I would have. Alas, I won’t be able to return to NYC before its last show on February 4, 2009.
While standing at the tickets booth in Times Square, a woman was asking for show suggestions. So of course I recommended one of my favorite plays, more or less like this: The basis of the plot is a teenage boy who undergoes therapy because he blinded several horses with the thought that, “What the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve over”. How and why could he do such a thing? That’s for the psychiatrist and audience to find out. Intense and dark, Equus is about society’s norms and religion. Shaffer takes a look at how beliefs are formed and what makes them valid or not. It piqued the woman’s interest and she bought a ticket. I forgot to mention there is some nudity, oops.
Despite its intensity, Equus is morbidly beautiful. Or perhaps, its beauty is in part because of its intensity. It’s well written and is a pretty quick read. I’ve read other lighter plays by Peter Shaffer, but this one is still my favorite. I highly recommend it in any format available.
To go through life and call it yours- your life- you first have to get your own pain. Pain that’s unique to you. You can’t just dip into the common bin and say “That’s enough!” ~Peter Shaffer, Equus