Consolidated Works, 381-3218. Through March 18.
Being a huge fan of chicken humor, I was agog walking into Consolidated Works and seeing a battery of outsized poultry cages, a 12-foot fried egg, and a 15-foot tall chicken head leering menacingly upstage in half-shadow. Egguus, based on Peter Shaffer's 1973 play Equus, provides hilarious visual puns in a literally enormous way. Director Keenan Hollahan (a.k.a. Stranger columnist Dan Savage, founder of the florid, wonderful theater troupe Greek Active, R.I.P.), with assistant director Charles Smith, spoofs the mixed-up tale of psychiatry at its most primitive, but sticks to the original text with surprising and not entirely successful faithfulness.
The famous, stodgy play is about an attractive teenage boy whose sexual wires get crossed, wants sex with horses instead of women, and is "normalized" via therapy by tale's end. Probably in the interest of showing that Equus is a stupid play, Hollahan and the cast of 10 stay close to the dialogue and characters while substituting certain symbols: Instead of horses, with their mystery and culturally ascribed sexual power, we have lowly chickens; instead of portraying the boy's father as an atheist, Hollahan construes him as a tedious New Age vegetarian. The result is funny, but there's a cost to merely flipping symbols about. Psychiatrist Dysart (Nick Cameron) and his nurse (Tina LaPlant) are played so straight that a sense of subversion and comic tension isn't there; missing was some exaggeration or embellishment of the characters. (The 1977 film version featured a tremulous, sloshed Richard Burton as Dysart: What kind of parody might have come out of that?)
However ridiculous Equus may be, its overall paradigm is still a popular one: that individuality is difficult to find in the face of religion and our nutso culture. This idea isn't outmoded or stupid. The play also portrays therapy as a way out of turmoil, and that isn't dated either. A more absorbing parody of Equus would focus on its silly rendition of Freudian thought, the obviousness of its characters, or any of the play's many excesses; Egguus' numerous inventive sight gags, though moment-to-moment funny, eventually result in a one-note parody.