September 16, 2014

Theatricum All-Shakespeare Season Ends with Equivocation

 

TOPANGA, CA— According to the history books, the infamous Gunpowder Plot was a failed conspiracy by England’s marginalized Catholics to blow up Protestant King James I and his entire Parliament.

Or was it? What if the official story concealed a darker truth? And what if King James had commanded William Shakespeare to write a play—a “true historie”—in order to further cement the government’s account?

These are some of the questions asked in Equivocation, Bill Cain's witty exploration of political power and artistic integrity. Winner of the prestigious 2010 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and called “one of the most bracingly intelligent, sizzlingly theatrical American plays in a decade” by Variety, Equivocation opens on September 5 at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga.

Directed by Mike Peebler and starring Ted Barton, Alan Blumenfeld, Dane Oliver, Franc Ross, Taylor Jackson Ross and Paul Turbiak, Equivocation is at once an explosive comedy of ideas and a high-stakes political thriller.

In London in the year 1605, a playwright named “Shagspeare” (after a contemporary spelling of the Bard's name) receives a royal commission from King James to write a play promoting the government's version of the Gunpowder Plot. As Shag navigates the dangerous course between writing a lie and losing his soul—or writing the truth and losing his head—his devoted theater troupe helps him negotiate each step of the way.

This bold new work deftly reveals the cat-and-mouse games of politics and art, and the craft of learning how to speak the truth in difficult times. Galloping at full speed, the play travels from the Globe Theatre to the Tower of London to the halls of Parliament and into the heart of Judith, Shag's young daughter, who finds herself unexpectedly at the center of the political, dramatic and, ultimately, very human mystery.

Equivocation is a complex, richly layered and challenging play,” says Peebler. “But its center is totally human, something we can all relate to: a man’s relationship with his family.

“The core of Shag’s journey is the reconciling of his grief over his lost son.”

His daughter, Judith, says, ‘I never knew I had a story of my own until he told it.’ That’s why we all love Shakespeare. He tells all our stories.”

Bill Cain was artistic director of the Boston Shakespeare Company during the 1970s and directed many plays from the Shakespearean canon during his tenure. His first play, Stand-Up Tragedy, premiered at the Mark Taper Forum before transferring to the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and Broadway, racking up six Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, four Helen Hayes Awards, and the 1990 Joe A. Callaway Award for Playwriting along the way. In 2011, his play, 9 Circles, garnered his second American Theatre Critics’ Association/Steinberg Award in two years, an unprecedented feat (the first, a year earlier, was for Equivocation).

His most recent play, How to Write a New Book for the Bible, is based on his own family. A Jesuit priest, Cain explained in a recent interview how that affects his writing: “The Jesuits weren’t founded to live in a cloister or a monastery. We’re supposed to go into the world and find the presence of God there and celebrate it. I’d say that’s a pretty good description of what all of us in theater do as well.”



Equivocation runs Sept. 5 through Oct. 4 for six performances: Fridays, Sept. 5; Sept. 12; Sept. 19; Sept. 26; and Oct. 3; and Saturday, Oct. 4, all at 8 p.m.

For tickets: Adults: $37 (lower tier); $25 (upper tier); Seniors (60+), Students, Military Veterans, AEA Members: $25/$15;
Children (7-12): $10;
Children 6 and under are free. The outdoor amphitheater at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon. Audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Snacks are available at the Hamlet Hut, and picnickers are welcome before and after the performance.

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga. For more information and to purchase tickets: (310) 455-3723 or theatricum.com. Visit Theatricum on facebook: facebook.com/theatricum and follow on twitter: @theatricum.