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Equivocation

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Bill Cain

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4890

SHOWING : April 23, 2016 - May 08, 2016

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jaclyn Hofmann
Cast Robin Bloodworth
Cast Nicholas Faircloth
Cast Matt Felten
Cast Clark Taylor
Cast Jeff Watkins
Cast Elizabeth Diane Wells
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Eloquence Vocation
by playgoer
Sunday, May 8, 2016
3.5
Bill Cain’s "Equivocation" posits that Shakespeare was hired by Robert Cecil, the first Earl of Salisbury and King James I’s de facto head of state, to write a play about 1605’s Gunpowder Plot that intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The king’s only requirement: that it include witches. After Shakespeare’s multiple attempts at telling the malleable "facts" of the Gunpowder Plot, Bill Cain supposes that the Scott-ish play was provided instead. "Macbeth," after all, lauds King James’ ancestry. Mr. Cain makes parallels between Banquo and the real-life Robert Cecil, whose descendants have held significant government posts.

Cain’s mixture of historical facts, suppositions, and inventions drags in a lot of material, making for an over-long play. The title comes from the work of Jesuit priest Henry Garnet, who was involved with the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. Consequently, there’s a lot of discussion about equivocation, the art of giving answers that straddle the line between moral truth and absolute truth. The character of Judith, twin to Shakespeare’s deceased son, also figures prominently, dragging in more discussion, about the use of twins in Shakespeare’s work and about mistreated daughters in Shakespeare’s later plays. The alternately cooperative and combative nature of Shakespeare’s acting company, led by Richard Burbage, also figures heavily.

Six actors play all the roles in "Equivocation." Anné Carole Butler’s impressive costumes do a good job of letting them morph from role to role, but the double-casting becomes a stunt at times, such as when the versatile Matt Felten simultaneously portrays the comic King James and Sharpe, a member of the acting troupe, with each profile showing a different costume. Clark Taylor is impressively distinct in his two major roles as Cecil and troupe member Nate. Robin Bloodworth is powerful as Burbage and Garnet; Jeff Watkins embodies "Shagspeare." Nicholas Faircloth does perfectly acceptable work, and Elizabeth Diane Wells conveys great inner strength as Judith. The acting is fine, and Jaclyn Hofmann’s blocking keeps the action flowing nicely throughout. Matt Felten’s fight choreography comes across as realistic in most instances, with one obvious wide swing in the performance I saw.

The technical elements are somewhat constrained by the use of the standard Shakespeare Tavern set, but bright banners around the periphery of the stage give the décor some color. Mary Parker’s lighting design is more inventive than is usually the case at the Tavern, using subtly changing area lighting to highlight the action. Clarke Weigle’s sound design impresses (except for an overuse of thunder during lines), but Bo Gaiason’s musical score doesn’t do much to set the scene in the years between 1605 (the Gunpowder Plot) and 1616 (Shakespeare’s death).

"Equivocation" is well-researched and makes moments in history come alive, but goes on too long in both acts, packing in more information than is really needed to get the point across. Adding in excerpts from "Macbeth" in performance emphasizes the length of the material. Furnishing "Macbeth" would seem to be the solution to the main problem raised in the play -- how is Shakespeare going to provide a play about the Gunpowder Plot that will neither act as shameless propaganda for King James I nor be considered treasonous? But after that solution has been arrived at, we need to slog through the justifications of "Equivocation" as the title of the play. The play follows a viscerally satisfying ending with a rather dry philosophical/biographical summing-up. That makes the play easier to appreciate than to love. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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