Aired on KSDS-FM on 11/11/16
RUN DATES: 10/21/16 – 11/20/16
VENUE: Lamb’s Players Theatre
Historical fiction vs. political truth. Catholics against Protestants. A playwright in conflict with his actors. Morality coming up against political expedience. A beloved son… and neglected daughter. A treasonous plot. And an imagined theatrical commission.
“Equivocation” has a lot on its mind. Bill Cain’s 2009 play, an acting ensemble showcase, is rife with clever repartee and sly and overt Shakespearean references. Whole scenes are lifted from “King Lear” and “Macbeth.” Real events intermingle with fantastical imaginings.
It’s 1605, shortly after the infamous, thwarted Gunpowder Plot, in which Jesuit noblemen planned to blow up Parliament and kill England’s King James I of Scotland. The king’s henchman, the hunchbacked Earl, Robert Cecil, commissions the King’s playwright, one William Shagspeare, to write a propagandistic play about the treasonous plot, based on a book written by the King himself.
But Shag has many questions about the scheme, some of which still plague historians… though Guy Fawkes Day continues to be celebrated with effigy-burning in England.
Shagspeare, one of many variants on the Bard’s name, feels that writing what the crown wants will compromise his soul and his art. During his exploratory process, he visits the condemned men in The Tower (just prior to their hanging – spectacularly conveyed here), battles with his fellow players at The Globe Theatre, and grieves for his dead son, while ignoring Hamnet’s living twin, Judith.
The 2½ hour play is crammed with ideas and theories, personalities and cleverness, not to mention drama, comedy and political intrigue of Shakespearean proportion.
The piece poses a wonderful challenge to six skillful, malleable actors. Lamb’s Players Theatre unequivocally delivers the goods, with an evocative scenic design, smart, sassy costumes, original music played by an onstage cellist, and an outstanding cast, under the astute and ingenious direction of Deborah Gilmour Smyth.
Playwright Cain, who also happens to be a Jesuit priest, couldn’t ask for a more exhilarating production – though we spectators might ask the writer to streamline his many lines of thought and action.
©2016 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews