Bas Bleu production ‘Equus’ shocks and entertains audiences with outstanding performances

Elena Waldman

Cast of Equus stands together for a picture after the show
The cast of “Equus” celebrates after their Thursday show at Bas Bleu Theater (Elena Waldman | Collegian).

Bas Bleu, a small theatre on Pine Street, is saving Fort Collins residents from summer boredom with a remarkably unorthodox production.

Out of the modest venue emerges “Equus,” a play with enough shock value, depth, and complexity to keep audiences on the edge of their seats for a full two and a half hours.

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Originally written by Peter Shaffer, “Equus” follows psychologist Dr. Martin Dysart as he attempts to understand and treat the deeply troubled 17-year-old Alan Strang, who is sent to a mental hospital for inexplicably blinding six horses. Though Strang initially comes off as an irreparable psychopath, the motivations behind his disturbing actions are slowly revealed retrospectively through his interactions with Dr. Dysart and examination of his relationships with both his devout Christian mother and excessively stern atheist father.

While subverting conventional methods of storytelling, “Equus” also explores several philosophical dichotomies such as religion versus worship, madness versus sanity and conformity versus deviance.

Strang is played by Koby Adams, an alumnus of Colorado State University’s theatre program. He said his portrayal of Strang was his introduction into more serious roles.

“In high school, I was sort of typecast as the more comedic roles,” Adams said. “This was the first super dramatic role I’ve ever done…I definitely got to challenge myself.”

When you find someone you work so well with, you can feel it every night when you’re doing these intense scenes that they’re just as invested as you are.” Koby Adams, CSU Theatre Alumnus

Adams said that because he couldn’t relate to Strang, it was difficult to portray such complicated emotions.

“Alan is a very, very troubled kid,” Adams said. “Honestly, getting into that headspace was a bit of a struggle at first. I just worked ridiculously hard at it.”

Equus” is edgier than standard productions and contains mature elements such as depictions of sex and nudity. The cast was originally nervous about the reception from audiences. According to Adams, however, they’ve received plenty of positive feedback.

“When you do a show this intense, you’re not really sure if people are going to like it,” Adams said. “The responses we’ve gotten so far, though, have been some of the coolest responses I’ve ever gotten after a show.”

Red and black poster for Equus with information and show dates.
An ‘Equus’ poster hangs on the dramaturgy board outside of the Bas Bleu Theatre stage (Elena Waldman | Collegian).

For a story of such high-caliber intensity, the stage appearance of “Equus” may at first seem underwhelming to viewers. There is no elaborate set and at times the audience is forced to use their imagination in place of props.

What the show lacks in aesthetic, however, it makes up for with solid performances. In fact, the absence of an extravagant set is a deliberate element of the play, forcing the characters to delve even deeper into the story. This also challenges the audience, giving them a chance to engage with the piece in a more imaginative and thought-provoking way.

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Bas Bleu is a particularly intimate venue, with a seating capacity of around 100 people. The intimacy of the stage set-up lends helps the audience relate more closely to the story.

Adams said that director Robert E. Braddy aimed to fulfill the original script as best as possible.

“We tried to stick to the original stage set- up in the script as close as we could,” Adams said. “…It’s really intimate….there’s even some scenes where you’re performing a foot away from where someone is sitting. The people who sit really close have told me they felt like they were more into it like they were a part of it.”

While the entire cast brought dedication and vigor to the production, the most noteworthy performances were delivered by both Adams and David Siever, who plays Dr. Dysart. Their tangible chemistry made the narrative all the more convincing and enjoyable to watch.

“I love working with David,” Adams said. “We have this very cool dynamic that’s so hard to find in theatre…When you find someone you work so well with, you can feel it every night when you’re doing these intense scenes that they’re just as invested as you are.”

Dark stage with audience members sitting around it.
Audiences wait for the beginning of the first act of ‘Equus’ at Bas Bleu theater (Elena Waldman | Collegian).

After seven months of preparation followed by a month of weekend shows, “Equus” will end its run on July 1. As he reminisces over the humbling experience of working on the show, Adams hopes that audiences can get as much out of the production as he did.

“What I really want for people to get out of it is a positive night out at the theatre,” Adams said. “The subject matter can get pretty heavy, but I really just want people to enjoy themselves.”

“Equus” will be playing June 28 to July 1. Tickets can be purchased on the Bas Bleu website, www.BasBleu.org

Elena Waldman can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @elenawaldman0.