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Author: Juliet Wittman

WESTWORD: Review: ‘Equivocation’

(Above: Hunter Ringsmith as King James I and Rodney Lizcano as Robert Cecil in “Equivocation.” Photo by Jennifer M Koskinen.)

At the intermission of “Equivocation,” this summer’s traditional non-Shakespeare-but-related-to-Shakespeare offering from the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, I found myself exultant, almost floating along the aisle to the lobby.

I’m so grateful to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival for bringing us this play, I said to a friend. It’s brilliant. And so it seemed — inventive, original, deeply clever and on a daring and constant teeter-totter between tragedy and comedy. Playwright Bill Cain postulates that William Shakespeare (Shagspeare or Shag here, played by a strong Michael Morgan) is summoned by Sir Robert Cecil (Rodney Lizcano, wonderfully cunning and evil) to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot — the notorious conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and with them the sitting king, James I.

The task is fraught and its ethics murky. The Gunpowder Plot was hatched by Catholics, and Catholics had been viciously persecuted in England since James’s ancestor, Henry VIII, anxious to divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn, broke with Rome. But what’s the truth about the plot? Shag wonders. Is it possible there never was a plot in the first place, or that the reality differs from the story being told? How is that story being used by the Crown to further its own purposes? And also by Robert Cecil, who may know far more than he lets on, and whom the king treats with a corrosive mixture of trust and contempt, calling him “my little beagle”? And what about the terrible tortures endured by the captured conspirators and the gruesome executions awaiting them? In case anyone doesn’t know exactly what the term “hanged, drawn and quartered” means, there’s a very explicit description by a guard at the Tower of London, where Shag visits one of the prisoners, Thomas Wintour (Hunter Ringsmith). If he offends the king, Shag is likely to end up in the Tower himself.

The idea that governments manipulate reality, the danger of speaking truth to power, the winking allusions to torture (“Isn’t torture against English law?” says James, all pseudo-innocence) — all these make Equivocation very contemporary. Think of the courage it took for Stephen Colbert to speak truth to President George W. Bush at the 2006 Washington Correspondents’ Dinner when almost no public figure was speaking out, and now imagine Bush having the power to have Colbert instantly hauled off to one of his infamous black prisons.

Other plot points include…read the full article here.