Why did a teenage boy who literally worships horses commit the unspeakable act of blinding six of them? That is the mystery psychiatrist Martin Dysart must unravel in order to help his disturbed young patient in Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning
. The psychological thriller opens at Palm Beach Dramaworks on May 18 and continues through June 3, with specially priced previews on May 16 and 17.
was inspired by a real-life incident relayed to Shaffer by a friend. The playwright had no information beyond the heinous crime; his friend died before Shaffer could learn more. But it was all he needed to fire his imagination.
tells the story of 17-year-old stable boy Alan Strang, the only child of a devout mother and an atheist father, who has both a religious and erotic obsession with horses. As Dysart learns about Alan’s history, and ultimately uncovers what prompted the disturbed boy’s rampage, he realizes he can cure him. But he has doubts that making Alan well is what’s best for the young man. Dysart is stuck in a loveless marriage, and as he says in the play, “That boy has known a passion more ferocious than I have felt in any second of my life. . . . I envy it.” Dysart fears that by making Alan “normal,” he will rob the boy of his spirit and his soul.
PBD’s production of
is directed by J. Barry Lewis and stars Peter Simon Hilton as Martin Dysart and Steven Maier (PBD debut) as Alan Strang. Also featured are John Leonard Thompson, Julie Rowe, Anne-Marie Cusson, Mallory Newbrough, and, making their PBD debuts, Steve Carroll, Meredith Bartmon, Domenic Servidio, Nicholas Lovalvo, Robert Richards, Jr., Frank Vomero, and Austin Carroll. Scenic design is by Anne Mundell, costume design is by Franne Lee, lighting design is by Kirk Bookman, and sound design is by Steve Shapiro. Lee Soroko is the movement coordinator, and Ben Furey is the dialect coach.
premiered at the National Theatre in London in 1973, with Alec McCowen as Dysart and Peter Firth as Alan. John Dexter directed that production as well as the original 1974 Broadway production, which starred Anthony Hopkins and Firth. The show played 1209 performances, and during the course of the run Hopkins was succeeded by Anthony Perkins, Richard Burton, McCowen, and Leonard Nimoy. Burton starred in Sidney Lumet’s 1977 film, with Firth again playing Alan. A 2008 Broadway revival (first produced in London) starred Richard Griffiths and, in his Broadway debut, Daniel Radcliffe.
Peter Shaffer wrote two of the finest plays of the late twentieth century,
, both of which earned him Tony Awards. He and his twin brother Anthony, who would also become a playwright (
), were born in Liverpool in 1926. His first play,
The Salt Land
, about the establishment of the state of Israel, was produced for the BBC in 1954. Four years later, Sir John Gielgud directed Shaffer’s first West End success,
Five Finger Exercise
, which was also a hit on Broadway in 1959. Other plays include two one-act comedies,
The Private Ear
The Public Eye
, a double bill that premiered in London and was subsequently staged on Broadway;
The Royal Hunt of the Sun
, another hit on two continents;
Black Comedy/White Lies
Lettice and Lovage
, with Tony Award-winning performances by Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack. Shaffer was the recipient of an Academy Award for his screenplay of
. He was knighted in 2001, inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2007, and died in Ireland, where he had gone to celebrate his 90th birthday, in 2016.
Palm Beach Dramaworks is a non-profit, professional theatre and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the South Florida Theatre League, Florida Professional Theatres Association, and the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County.
Evening performances of
are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30PM, Friday and Saturday at 8PM, and Sunday at 7PM. Matinee performances are on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM. Post-performance discussions follow Wednesday matinee and Sunday evening performances. Individual tickets are $75, with specially priced preview tickets at $55 and Opening Night tickets at $90. Student tickets are available for $15, and Pay Your Age tickets are available for those 18-40. Tickets for educators are half price with proper ID (other restrictions apply). Group rates for 20 or more and discounted season subscriptions are also available.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information contact the box office at (561) 514-4042, or visit