Thru August 26th
THEATRE: Blank Canvas Theatre is dedicated to inspiring a new love for those new to theatre in the Cleveland community, while providing another quality venue for those who already love the arts. Our annual season is diverse, designed to attract many different types of theatre-goers – whether you prefer American classics, new works, off-beat musicals, drama, or comedy, you’ll find something to enjoy at Blank Canvas Theatre. We always include at least one show chosen to appeal to new audience members – folks who do not think of themselves as “theatre lovers” and may be seeing a live performance for the first time – and we also feature performances of The Laughter League sketch comedy troupe as part of each season. It’s our goal to interest people in different types of performances, encouraging them to break out of their entertainment boxes! Blank Canvas Theatre is also honored and happy to provide a supportive, fun, and professional environment in which actors, designers and technicians can work together to create a positive experience for themselves and our audience.
SHOW: Equus is a Tony Award winning play by Peter Shaffer written in 1973, telling the story that was inspired by a real crime in which a 17-year-old boy blinded six horses. Dr. Martin Dysart (Russell B. Kunz), a psychiatrist, is confronted with Alan Strang (a remarkable Antonio DeJesus), a boy who has blinded six horses in a violent fit of passion. To the boy’s parents it is a hideous mystery; Alan has always adored horses. To Dysart, it is a psychological puzzle that leads both doctor and patient to a complex and disturbingly dramatic confrontation.
Performance: There is much to be celebrated with this production. From the moment, you take your seat, you begin to take in the set design that is reminiscent of a barn stable at sunset. Awash with blood-red hue, the lighting enhances a raised circular set with a dropped center, where one can only guess the recesses of the mind rest. Horse heads are placed strategically around the set, so that anywhere you look, at least one of the horses is looking at you. It is chilling, and even though, I am familiar with the play, I have never seen this design. Truly original and eerie. And I kept thinking, what about the people who don’t know what is coming………………
This tale is anchored on the journey of two actors. In this case, Kunz as Dr. Martin Dysart, and his patient Allan Strang, portrayed to perfection by Antonio DeJesus. But what is remarkable about this production, is the quality of the surrounding actors. Amiee Collier, as court magistrate, Hesther Saloman, is at perfect pitch. She portrays confidence in every step and line, and most importantly intention. Her drive to help Strang resonates. Even though Collier is basically the Patty Lupone of Cleveland Theatre, it is nice to see her flex her acting chords with precision. As parents, Frank and Dora Strang, Andrew Narten and Claudia Esposito ring true on every note. Narten is riveting as he navigates his personal moral code. His nuances are visceral and his intrinsic acting choices divine. His handling of his descent into his own moral demons, is executed with adept choices. Esposito delivers the all-American mother realness in fine form. She handles the characters journey with fine craftswomanship. Delivering both the loving, supportive side, and also, letting loose with determined focus when necessary.
Nugget & the Horsemen are perfection. Providing the physical presence and soul of these equine gods, the gentlemen create a magnificent strength. Daryl Kelley, as Nugget, provides a sexual, strong, and confident leader of the Harras. Jason Falkofsky, Zac Hudak, Evan Martin, Anthony Salatino, and David Turner are perfect as the attending horsemen. Each with quiet dignity and strength, providing a beautiful relationship. And as a former partner to an equine trainer, the moment Alan and Jill enter the stable to see the horses all turn their heads to check out the visitors, was a welcome recalled memory. Every moment and choreographed movement was wonderful. Great work.
Chris Bizub as Harry Dalton provides a down to earth real presentation of character. Solid choices, and delivers with a confident manner. As the Nurse, Katie Wells doesn’t give a flying medical degree how small this role could be perceived, she makes every entrance, moment, and constructive moment count. Sarah Blubaugh as Jill Mason, Harry’s daughter, turns in a pristine performance. The moment she enters the stage, her stage presence, confidence, and centered psyche is on full display. She is marvelous to watch as she traverses every psychological road block that Allan puts up, and does it with superb skill.
And we come to the two main players. On Saturday night, Kunz started off strong, a little more Richard Griffiths looking for my liking, but began his journey with an effective air. But there was something missing. The performance seemed off with a bit of bobbling lines, and after a while, acting pauses turned into worry that the lines were not coming as fast to the brain and one would wish. Also missing were a few pages of script from Act One, an error that I am sure will be reserved for only once in a lifetime. However, when he was on, it worked well. And also, if you did not know that happened, Kunz handled that as a pro – and as a result, an Equus novice would have never known. But none of that could deflect from the magnificent performance of DeJesus as Alan Strang. It is truly remarkable. From the moment we meet him, he slowly unravels his tortured and protected veneer. Every moment is completely lost within an incredibly defined characterization that is spellbinding to watch. Each of his monologues are pieces of art. Having just entered his first year of college, I can’t imagine a more profound dissertation on character. And when Blubaugh and DeJesus start the final journey into the core of hell and dysfunction of this piece, their moments together, the craft and skill they both bring, is some of the most brave, fierce, trusting, and unapologetic acting I have seen in a long time. It is magic, and it is an honor to have seen their work.
Production: Artistic Director/Technical Director/Director Patrick Ciamacco has produced and directed one of the best shows ever at Blank Canvas Theatre. Great concept, and wonderful execution. His Lighting and Sound Design greatly enhanced this show. His set design with the drop middle was especially intriguing to me, for I felt that it represented the subconscious, where all of our fears, faults, and dark stories reside. Luke Scattergood provided solid costuming, but I would press Saloman’s skirt and cut off the string hanging in the back. The Horse Construction was awesome. Great work from Noah Hrbek (Original Horse Design) and Ciamacco. The horse movement was coached by Katie Zarecki, Jenna Fink, and Patrick Ciamacco. Assistant Director Jenna Fink was on board as well within the production. Stage Manager Brittany Gaul did an excellent job as Stage Manager and calling the show.
In the event that skipping pages occurs in the show, it is probably best not to have cast members texting friends in the audience to discuss the faux pas, or discussing the situation at the rest room. Shit happens. To all of us. Just keep it in the family, just like the Strang’s.
Photo Credit: Andy Dudik
Bravo to original graphic design by Pat Miller.
CSA highly recommends this show. It is Blank Canvas Theatre at its very best.
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Blank Canvas Theatre
78th Street Studios
1305 West 80th Street, Suite 211
Cleveland, OH 44102