After a long history with Actor’s Express, it’s only fitting that openly gay David Crowe is back with the company, this time directing the classic “Equus.”
Opening March 21, “Equus” – written in 1973 by Peter Shaffer — is the dark tale of Alan Strang (Kyle Brumley), a young man who has blinded a half dozen horses. Psychiatrist Richard Dysart (Chris Kayser) is left to figure out why and treat Strang.
Considered a masterpiece, “Equus” is still staged regularly around the world but got a big modern-day boost when Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, performed the lead role of Alan in London in 2007 and again on Broadway in 2009 — bringing masses to see the play and to gawk at his full frontal nudity.
Freddie Ashley of Actor’s Express approached Crowe for the project. Crowe loved the idea.
“It deals with language, and that which is less realistic, which are things that I am passionate about,” says Crowe. “It’s a beautifully written play, so well put together. It’s a fantasy, almost supernatural.”
He has never actually seen a production but a lot of that has to do with timing.
“By the time I was around, ‘Equus’ had had its day,” says the director.
During the course of the play, Dysart begins to question his own life and has to make some big decisions.
“He is middle-aged and in a longtime marriage,” says Crowe. “He realizes he has had no real life experiences, no amazing stories. He wonders if it’s better to be safe and conform or live a passionate existence. Does he try and deliver the boy into a safe place?”
Crowe thinks gay and lesbian audiences will respond to the idea of non-conformity vs. playing it safe. The cast includes veteran performers such as Kayser, Kathleen Wattis and Joanna Daniel with newer ones such as Brumley. Additionally, many of the current Actor’s Express interns play horses.
Crowe has been working with the company both as a director and an actor for more than 20 years, directing a half dozen shows and acting in more than 15. He interned at the company in 1990 and has been a company member since the following year.
Among the shows he has appeared in are the gay-themed “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “The Mystery of Irma Vep.” As a director, he is best known perhaps for his work on the company’s 2002 gay-themed “Beautiful Thing.”
Crowe moved away from the area in 2006 and studied directing at the University of Washington but returned in 2009. He got back into theater slowly and now tries to do at least two shows a year. His first project back at the Express was directing “The Judas Kiss,” which dealt with Oscar Wilde and his relationship with his male lover.
Though he’s worked at companies all over the city, Actor’s Express is special to him.
“Actor’s Express has been a home to me,” Crowe says. “I went there right after college and learned so much there. At the time Actor’s Express was the place you went to for classic stagings. (Former artistic director) Chris Coleman could take any dusty play and make something great of it. Now Freddie is around and has such a good balance of classics and new work.”
“The Baltimore Waltz”
Through March 16 at The Fern Theatre at 7 Stages
One of lesbian Paula Vogel’s first plays, and a very personal one, about a (gay) brother and sister who tour Europe after one is diagnosed with a fatal disease.
Through March 17 at 7 Stages
GA Voice columnist Topher Payne’s world premiere play about two gay men who turn violent when a friend is assaulted is undeniably relevant and hard-hitting. Features GA Voice columnist Melissa Carter in her theater debut as a lesbian state senator.
“The Drowsy Chaperone”
Through April 14 at Aurora Theatre
This Tony-winning musical follows a lonely, sexually ambiguous musical theater junkie who puts on the cast album of his favorite show and sees it pop to life around him.
April 3 – May 5 at The Alliance Theatre
The American premiere of this swashbuckling musical, directed by openly gay Christopher Renshaw, who worked with Boy George on “Taboo.”
“Designing Women Live 7”
April 11 – 14 at Onstage Atlanta
Two new episodes of the TV classic are being staged – “Suzanne Goes Looking for a Friend” and “The Emperor’s New Nose/How Long Has This Been Going On?” – and done as fundraisers for Process Theatre and Onstage Atlanta’s new home.
Top photo: Kyle Brumley (right) plays Alan Strang, seen here opposite ‘Nugget’ played by Jason-Jamal Ligon in Actor’s Express’s production ‘Equus,’ the classic, dark tale of a young man who’s blinded a half dozen horses. (by BreeAnne Clowdus)