A&E road trip: 'Equivocation' in D.C.

November 30, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

(Note: Sparked by a Creative Renewal Grant from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, I'm seeing as much theater around the country . Here's the latest.)

One of the many, many pleasures of Bill Cain’s play “Equivocation” is how deftly the playwright constructs a rough draft of a play that Shakespeare never wrote.

That fragment-of-a-play-within-a-play is based on the alleged “Gunpowder Plot” of Guy Fawkes and company—a story that the Bard is ordered to write in order to elevate the stature of the buffoonish King and denigrate his enemies.

Shakespeare—or Shagspeare as he is known here—knows the difference between propaganda and literature. But he isn’t given much choice in the matter: Write the play or else.

Well, we know he didn’t write it. But like Shakespeare before him, Bill Cain isn’t shy about taking a bit of history and manipulating it for theatrical pleasure. And in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production being staged at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage through Jan. 1, he’s teamed with a near ideal cast and a savvy director to pull it all together.

In their hands, “Equivocation” is a piece that takes the best elements of such costume dramas as “A Man for All Seasons,” mixes in a reluctant hero a la Rick from “Casablanca,” and finds a great balance of bon mots (“Plays have beginnings and ends—two lies right there.”) and moving dramatic moments, adding up to a tremendously satisfying evening.

I wasn’t convinced that the fourth wall needed to be broken—although having Shag’s daughter (a movingly restrained Christine Albright) criticize soliloquies in soliloquy form was fun. And the second act lacked the moment-to-moment theatrical joy of the first, occasionally seeming to try to convince us of things we’ve already accepted. But those quibbles aren’t meant to diminish the achievement here. Director Bill Rauch wisely avoids underlining the contemporary too obviously, allowing the costumes and set to stay in period and the audience to meet the show half way to draw its own parallels to today. The design is spare but effectively so.

Anthony Heald (TV watchers may remember him as a regular on “Boston Public”) plays Shagspeare as a man accustomed to twisting facts, just uncomfortable being ordered to do so. He still hasn’t come to terms with the death of his son and keeps the boy’s twin sister at an emotional distance. Jonathan Haugen, another Oregon Shakespeare Festival regular, should receive two best supporting actor awards for playing both the King’s emotionally and physically twisted right-hand-man Cecil and one of the Shakespearian troupers. (My only problem with Haugen—his massive torso tattoo, which distracted in what should have been a vulnerable near-nude scene for Cecil.) They, along with John Tufts, Richard Elmore, and Gergory Linington, made me jealous of those living close enough to Ashland, Oregon, who get to see their work on a regular basis.

For a sample, click here.

Your thoughts


Post a comment to this blog

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
  1. I am so impressed that the smoking ban FAILED in Kokomo! I might just move to your Awesome city!

  2. way to much breweries being built in indianapolis. its going to be saturated market, if not already. when is enough, enough??

  3. This house is a reminder of Hamilton County history. Its position near the interstate is significant to remember what Hamilton County was before the SUPERBROKERs, Navients, commercial parks, sprawling vinyl villages, and acres of concrete retail showed up. What's truly Wasteful is not reusing a structure that could still be useful. History isn't confined to parks and books.

  4. To compare Connor Prairie or the Zoo to a random old house is a big ridiculous. If it were any where near the level of significance there wouldn't be a major funding gap. Put a big billboard on I-69 funded by the tourism board for people to come visit this old house, and I doubt there would be any takers, since other than age there is no significance whatsoever. Clearly the tax payers of Fishers don't have a significant interest in this project, so PLEASE DON'T USE OUR VALUABLE MONEY. Government money is finite and needs to be utilized for the most efficient and productive purposes. This is far from that.

  5. I only tried it 2x and didn't think much of it both times. With the new apts plus a couple other of new developments on Guilford, I am surprised it didn't get more business. Plus you have a couple of subdivisions across the street from it. I hope Upland can keep it going. Good beer and food plus a neat environment and outdoor seating.