Peter Schaffer's play, "Equus," is about more than a boy who blinded horses because his parents were sexually repressed. It portrays the terrifying obsession of Alan Strang and Martin Dysart, his psychiatrist, whose contact with Strang forced him to confront his own beliefs about God and civilization.
In Domy Reiter-Soffer's "Equus: The Ballet," given its world premier Wednesday night by the Maryland Ballet at Baltimore's Mechanic Theatre, both subtlety and subplot got lost in the translation from words to dance. Except for the simple leaps and prances of the fantastically painted "horses," the unimaginative and unspecific choreography provides no more information about the motivations of, or the relationship among, the characters than the effectively staged tableaux which tell the pareddown story clearly and with cinematic speed.
In only on instance did Reiter-soffer's choregraphic imagination match Schaffer's dramatic one. In the play, Strang at first will only babble the "Doublemint" commercial. In the ballet, Wilfred Joseph's score plays the jingle, while Strang is given a brief, angry solo. The physical juxtaposition of inner anger and outer nonsense is, in this case, more effective than words.
That Clark Tippet as Dysart and Louis Perrella as Strang remained writing ciphers is less than their fault than Reiter-Soffer's. Sylvester Campbell fared better as the proud, mystical Nugget, Zeus of Strang's equine Olympus. The backdrop of marvelously oppressive gray clouds was the design of the choreographer and Joseph's score, like well-made film music, added emotional coloration and dramatic tension.
As a whole, the Maryland Ballet looked stronger than on its last outing. The dancers seemed fresh, wellrehearsed and well-coached. Frederic Franklin's "Tribute" received an appropriately pretty performance and his staging of the pas de dix from "Raymonda" was danced with more stylistic than technical assurance, but throughout the evening, the dancers appeared relaxed, confident, and dancing as a company. The program will be repeated tonight and tomorrow.