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Author: Beki Pineda

BOULDER MAGAZINE: Review: Equivocation

This is a wonderful play, full of insights into human nature, theatrically presented by a talented cast of players.

(Above: Hunter Ringsmith and Michael Morgan in “Equivocation.” Photo by Jennifer M Koskinen.)

First of all, I want to state UNEQUIVOCALLY that this is a wonderful play, full of insights into human nature, theatrically presented by a talented cast of players. The central character dilemma is clearly presented and the various ramifications of different courses of action are thoroughly explored. It is a play about Shakespeare (called Shakespeare or Shag in this version) and his company of players, written in modern language in a manner that illustrates realistically their friendship, their personal differences and their commitment to their “cooperative venture” theater company.

While this is a kind of “you have to have been there” script with twists and turns galore that are better observed than explained, the awkward position that Shakespeare finds himself in involves receiving a commission from King James I’s secretary, Sir Robert Cecil, to write a play that tells the “truth” about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (the precursor to the now-annual Guy Fawkes Day celebrations in England). The truth is that no one knew the truth about the plot, which involved Catholics and Jesuit priests storing barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords with the plan of exploding it during the next opening ceremonies. The point of the plot was to kill the king and most of the lords of the land (both Catholic and Protestant) in order to capture and install his young daughter as queen, as she was known to have Catholic sympathies. An anonymous letter (which could have been written by Cecil himself) was sent to a high-ranking official that disclosed the plot. All involved were eventually captured and executed in exceedingly gruesome ways.

Cecil has created his own version of the “truth” and this is what he wants told in the play Shakespeare is to write. But as Shakespeare does his own investigation into the plot that occurred only months before, he uncovers conflicting information. Allowed into the Tower to interview Thomas Wintour and Father Henry Garnet (later called “a Doctor of Dissimulation” by the Court), he tries to find a way to walk the narrow path between Cecil’s version and what he is discovering on his own. He is in the midst of creating the script for the Scottish play, and since King James is also Scottish, it seems natural to integrate the recently enacted events with his supernatural history play. This script device allows for the very clever use of the actors to play both characters in MACBETH, the people involved in the original Gunpowder Plot, and actors in the company protesting their involvement in politics (“Politics is religion for people who think they are God”).

This is an ideal script for a Shakespeare Festival presentation. It caters to the knowledge the audience arrives with about the plots of Shakespeare’s plays, and…read the full review here.