Alan Strang is a seventeen year old boy suffering from one or more mental disorders. The play "Equus," by Peter Shaffer uses a psychiatrist, Dr. Dysart, to pull out the young man's personality and make him "normal." Throughout the play, the two characters struggle; Dysart with his occupation and the morality of taking someone's passion just to make them normal, and Alan with revealing the motive behind his heinous crime. Dysart is going through a "midlife crisis" in which he is seriously questioning if he should be, or is worthy to be, a psychiatrist. Alan is a non-social teen who, because of forced repression, ignorance and his own narcissism, has obsessional neurosis and has created a personal religion for himself in which a horse is God. The New York Times review of the play in 1974 defines this struggle; "two souls are unlocked, truth for truth, spite for spite. The dissecting room becomes a cage in which skins are stripped away equally" (Kerr) .
Peter Shaffer, the author of the play first performed in 1973, decided to write it after hearing a story about a young man stabbing six horses from a friend. Although, as stated in the "A Note on the Play" section preceding the play, this is a fictional story, it is derived from a very real incident. Equus is not the first psychological play Shaffer has penned, but it is one of the most successful. Many directors and actors have described this play as a challenging one. However, it has gotten many good reviews because of how powerful and thought provoking it is. In 1974 Walter Kerr described the play as "all risk." He also describes Equus as "as much a play of melodramatic tensions as it is of consciously and successfully designed ritual." (Kerr) .
In this play, Shaffer challenges the audience to ask what normal is, and if the individual with passion is more desirable than the "healthy" normal.