Equus, Thirsty Theater, at the Pilsen Theatre. A shy adolescent boy driven to forge a private religion is not as shocking a character as he would have been in 1973, the year this play was first produced. Neither are the misgivings of the psychiatrist whose duty it is to rob him of his terrible creed. But Peter Shaffer’s indictment of a world where social sustenance comes at the cost of spiritual starvation has lost none of its power or poignancy.

By casting a woman in the role of the disturbed youth, Thirsty Theater director Mitchell Newman risks reducing the character’s arguments to a frivolous drag turn. But Dorothea Emery delivers a consistently believable teenage pilgrim, capturing with unobtrusive accuracy each nuance of a boy’s vocal inflection and body language. And Steve Misetic is effectively transformed into mighty Equus by a wire mask, clog-box cothurni, and equine mannerisms. The rest of the intelligent, articulate cast, led by Dean La Prairie as the ambivalent Dr. Dysart, deliver ensemble work that prevents the more prosaic characters from being eclipsed by the Dionysiac spectacle, making for an intellectually riveting and emotionally exhilarating evening.

–Mary Shen Barnidge