Why did Alan Strang take a spike and blind six horses? Peter Shaffer's mystery-drama about a boy's quest for a personal god and the psychiatrist who must stifle that quest receives a thoughtful, at times breathlessly exhilarating, production from HotCity Theatre. Director Doug Finlayson exploits all the tools at his disposal to weave an evening of encompassing theatricality: mime, chanting, evocative lighting from Michael Sullivan, a haunting sound design from Robin Weatherall, an ingenious unit set by John Armstrong that evokes a hospital, a stable and a Greek temple. Finlayson has made exciting use of the limited space in the Kranzberg's black-box theater. As the damaged youth whose self-styled religion goes against society's norms, Drew Pannebecker's modulated performance peaks at all the key times. But Shaffer's script — which seemed so exciting when it debuted on Broadway in the mid-1970s — now feels wildly overwritten. Dysart, the child psychiatrist who is himself damaged goods, suffers from diarrhea of the mouth. James Anthony does an astonishingly adept job of sorting through the verbiage. In an admirable performance of utter simplicity, he knows what thoughts to emphasize and when to just plow ahead. As impressive as Anthony is, we still might wish that Alan, rather than scratching out the eyes of six horses, had used that spike to scratch out six pages of text. Through September 25 at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors; $15 for students, five minutes before showtime; Saturday matinee $5 off). Call 314-289-4063 or visit www.hotcitytheatre.org
. — Dennis Brown
Shrek the Musical Reviewed in this issue.
You Can't Take It With You Reviewed in this issue.