EQUIVOCATION at The Seattle Rep

By: Nov. 23, 2009
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The Seattle Rep's current production of Bill Cain's "Equivocation" not only thrills you for your time in the theater but stays with you rattling around in your head for the ride home and several days after that.  This thought provoking drama/thriller direct from it's premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon (with the same amazing cast) is a complete treat for the mind as well as the theatrical palate.  The Rep has yet another hit, and I just have to say, "Wow!"

The story centers around William Shakespeare (or Shagspeare) and the hypothetical history of King James I commissioning him to write a play surrounding the botched attempt to assassinate him and the rest of Parliament.  But the King wants to make sure that Shagspeare's account of this plot is favored more toward the King's version, thereby making his the version which lasts throughout time with the people.  As they say, history is written by the winners.  So does Shagspeare tell the King's version or tell the truth and risk losing his head?  And just what is the truth?  That is the central conceit of "Equivocation", both the play and the word.  Manipulating the truth based on the circumstances.  While Shagspeare struggles to find the real truth and write a play that won't get him killed, he and his troupe of actors deal with their own quests for truth and art (and money).  And the whole thing is laced with elements from other Shakespeare shows such as "King Lear" and Shakespeare's cursed tragedy, "Macbeth".  And did I mention, "Wow!"?

The cast is headed up by the incredible Anthony Heald (who you may remember from "Boston Public" or "Silence of the Lambs") as Shagspeare.  Heald's performance here is no less than spectacular.  He truly gets into the mindset of Shagspeare, the author caught between his convictions, his art and his life.  I was especially stunned by his near apoplectic fear of his own play as he finishes writing "Macbeth".  The rest of the brilliant ensemble portray many characters throughout the play.  Fellow actors in Shagspeare's troupe, the King and his court, characters in the play within a play, and all with such ease and fluidity that you never once lose who is who.  Richard Elmore's quiet portrayal of the treason accused Father Henry Garnet is both powerful and tragic.  Jonathan Haugen shows incredible versatility as the damaged and evil Sir Robert Cecil.  Gregory Linington offers much of the comedic relief of the play and is a true master of the art.  Never once was the comedy out of place or forced upon us.  Christine Albright is riveting as Shagspeare's daughter, Judith.  She embodies the heart of Shagspeare and keeps these crazy actors grounded.  And a special note for JOHN TUFTS.  At one moment he breaks your heart as tortured conspirator Tom Wintour, then he's making you giggle right along with his giddy King James I.  A stunningly versatile actor who is a pleasure to watch.  All in all an outstanding ensemble of actors who completely immerse themselves into the world of their play.  Again, "Wow!"

And it's not difficult to find yourself lost in this world with Cain's rich and wonderful script and flawless direction by Bill Rauch.  Every aspect of the play manages to ... well ... wow.  And at two hours and 45 minutes, it could be a long evening in the hands of a lesser group, but the show flies by.  I have to say this is a thrilling night of theater and you should treat yourself to catching this incredible show before it moves on.  And that is the truth. 

OK, one more.  WOW!

"Equivocation" plays at the Seattle Repertory Theatre through December 13th.  For tickets for information, contact the Rep box office at 206-443-2222 or visit them online at www.seattlerep.org.


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