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Can Daniel Radcliffe ride 'Equus' to the Tony Awards derby?

September 26, 2008 | 10:31 am

Daniel Radcliffe of "Harry Potter" fame overcame the advance publicity about his nude scene in the Broadway revival of "Equus" and convinced the tough Gotham critics he can actually act.

While they were, for the most part, less than enthused about the overall production, the theater scribes raved about Radcliffe's performance. The English actor, 19, earned similar notices last year for the London run. Then he won only two kudos from the WhatsOnStage Awards, which were sealed with a notorious gay kiss. Now Daniel Radcliffe could well be a contender next spring for the Tony Award for best actor in a play.

Back in 1975, the original mounting of "Equus" was nominated for five Tonys, winning best play for Peter Shaffer (he would win again in 1981 for "Amadeus") and the director prize for John Dexter (a winner again in 1988 for helming "M. Butterfly"). Peter Firth, who originated the role of the troubled teen who blinds six horses, lost the best actor race to a rare double nominee — John Kani and Winston Ntshona — from the twin bill "Sizwe Banzi Is Dead" and "The Island."

Equus_daniel_radcliffe

This time 'round, the field for best revival is crowded with upcoming productions of classics "The Seagull" and "Hedda Gabler" as well as Tony winners "All My Sons" (1947) and "A Man for All Seasons" (1962). And, as the directors' race draws from both original and revived plays, it is unlikely that Thea Sharrock will make it into the final four.

Typical of the mixed reviews was Ben Brantley of the New York Times, who said, "Daniel Radcliffe steps into a mothball-preserved, off-the-rack part and wears it like a tailor’s delight — that is, a natural fit that allows room to stretch. Would that the production around him, first presented in London, showed off Mr. Shaffer’s 1973 psychodrama as flatteringly as it does its stage-virgin star."

Linda Winer of Newsday enthused, "The actor, tiny but a commanding feral presence, manages to be both extraordinarily lucid and mysterious as Alan Strang, the alienated provincial English boy who literally worships horses but blinds six of them in an explosion of psychosexual religiosity. Radcliffe, despite the visceral physicality of the role, appears supremely comfortable in his own skin — and, yes, kids, thanks to the nude scene, we get to see all of it."

Said Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News: "He's terrific and gives a passionate performance as Alan Strang, the 17-year-old stable hand who worships -- and blinds -- six horses. Yes, he's nude in a scene, but not gratuitously. And yes, he's (at least partially) in good company in the revival of Peter Shaffer's play, which intrigues but shows its age."

The USA Today review began, "The good and bad news about the new Broadway revival of 'Equus' with Daniel Radcliffe is that the actor is aging a lot more gracefully than the play. In this London-based production, which opened Thursday at the Broadhurst Theatre, the Harry Potter star puts to rest any arguments that his appeal should be limited to moony adolescents and maudlin grown-ups. If only the same could be said for Peter Shaffer's 35-year-old drama."

Clive Barnes of the New York Post found "Radcliffe, with his luminously intense eyes and fragile but wiry body, looks wonderfully right as Alan, the 17-year-old British boy besotted by everything equine. His acting, beautifully understated and withdrawn, has just the right manner for this horribly mixed-up adolescent, at the prey of a wayward religiosity and a twisted sexuality cemented together with suburban hypocrisy."

For David Rooney of Variety, "Daniel Radcliffe significantly helps overcome the fact that Peter Shaffer's 1975 Tony winner doesn't entirely hold up. The play is an astute career move for the 'Harry Potter' frontman as he confidently navigates the transition from child stardom to adult roles -- and Radcliffe's performance provides 'Equus' with a raw emotional nerve center that renders secondary any concerns about its wonky and over-explanatory psychology."

However, Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter had some reservations: "Playing Alan Strang, the tormented 17-year-old who commits the horrific crime of blinding six horses, the young actor displays a confident physical presence -- all too necessary, considering the length of his Act 2 nude scene -- and intensity. But he doesn't quite manage to fully plumb the disturbed depths of the character, as Peter Firth did so brilliantly in the original production and 1977 film version."

And finally, Michael Kuchwara of the AP thought, "The young actor's voice is strong, and Radcliffe doesn't shrink from the physicality of the part. That includes doffing all his clothes during the play's climactic moments. But then, he literally throws himself into the role in a production chock full of startling, imaginative theatrics." He was one of the few to find favor with the overall production: "Director Thea Sharrock, taking a cue from the original staging, has given the play a compelling, arenalike flavor. Some audience members sit in two tiers above the stage and look down on the action."

(Old Vic Theatre, Broadhurst Theatre)

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Comments

I neither applaud or condemn young Mr. Radcliffe for his performance, I simply did not see it.

However I did read Equus in graduate school and I found it to be a disgusting piece of trash. I cannot understand how supposedly intelligent people could applaud a play that centers around hideous cruelty to animals. The work is void of entertainment or even insight into the tortured world of the mentally ill.

With all those rave reviews, and both critic and audience agreeing about how good he is, he should get a nomination yes o yes. Because if he doesn't, it would be too obvious they are not giving it to him just because he is famous, or young, or any of those ridiculous reasons commenter gmyers wrote.

Griffiths is a very fine actor, but Radcliffe steals the show. And both critics and audience have mixed reviews about Griffiths' performance.

Alan strang is an extremely complex role, and you complety forget this is his Broadway debut, it is so confident on stage you would think he has being acting there all his life.

So unless someone else get that same reception from both audience and critics (which I'm not seeing at the moment), not only Radcliffe deserves the nomination, he would deserve to win.

'Not a real theater actor'? How snobbish! The fact that he started in film doesn't have any bearing on his status as a stage actor. He is currently starring on Broadway. That makes him, at the moment, a theatre actor.

His age and fame has nothing to do with whether or not he is is worthy of a TONY. His acting should be the only thing that is considered, and by all accounts, it's stellar, even in comparison with theatre stalwarts such as Griffiths and Mulgrew.

Give the bloke a break. He's pushing his own boundaries and developing a craft he has a lot of admiration and respect for.

No Tony because he is too young and known and not a real theater actor like the people who usually win awards. Dennehy or even Griffiths.


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