THEATER: “War Horse” – So-so Acting Meets Sublime Stagecraft and Breathtaking Inventiveness @ Proctors [Berkshire on Stage]

January 17th, 2014, 1:00 pm by Sara
Grayson DeJesus on Topthorn and Michael Wyatt Cox on Joey (photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

The “War Horse” horses: Topthorn and Joey (photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: The morning after seeing War Horse, I am still awestruck. To take a simple story of a boy and his horse and turn it into the sweeping spectacle now on the stage of Proctors in Schenectady is nothing short of brilliant. It’s there until Sunday (January 19), and perhaps both the first and last chance for people in this region to see what first-class theater is all about. They can read the book or see the Spielberg movie, of course, but neither can duplicate what we saw on stage.

Gail M.Burns: I think many more people are familiar with the book and the film, and it’s is our duty and pleasure to tell them that this stage version exists. It swept the 2011 Tony Awards, where host Neil Patrick Harris made a grand entrance riding on Joey, the horse puppet that is the “star” of the show.

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Larry: Set in the days leading up to the Great War, the tale itself is set in a small English town where a struggling farming family ends up with the thoroughbred hunter colt Joey, bought by the cowardly and drunken father at auction for more money than they could ever afford. The job of raising the young steed falls to Albert, the son, who has that special sort of gift that enables him to understand and communicate with the spirited animal. When finances dictate that Joey has to become a draft horse, pulling a plow, Albert manages to turn his racehorse into a workhorse.

The author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, found the inspiration for this story during a visit to a farm in which he happened on a boy talking to his horse in a confident and serious voice, and he had “the strong impression that the horse was listening and understanding, too. It was the inspirational moment that gave me the confidence to write War Horse.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.