Friday, September 18, 2009

OSF: Equivocation

"I don't like theater," says Judith Shagspeare in Act I of Equivocation. Then again, she's never seen Equivocation. The world premiere of the play by Bill Cain, directed by Bill Rauch at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is the most mind-blowingly fantastic theater Weisenheimer has experienced in a while, nipping at the heels of the 2005 OSF production of Richard III as most favorite ever.

On it's surface, Equivocation is about telling truth to power and not going to the gallows for it. But it's about so much more. It's about political power, in the early 1600s and now, with themes of scheming and spying and torture front and center. It's about art's power or inability to make a difference. It's about loyalty and family and religion. It's about Shagspeare writing "The True History of the Powder Plot." It's about posterity and consequences. It's about incredibly clever writing and joyous language. It's an astounding piece of work.

Rauch gets letter-perfect performances from a small cast, most playing multiple parts. Anthony Heald leads as Shag, writing the Powder Plot, which turns out not to have a plot or an interesting ending, and to be Macbeth instead. Richard Elmore is fantastic as Richard and other characters, most notably Father Henry Garnet, who teaches Shag about equivocation -- answering the real question asked, not the one literally posed. Jonathan Haugen is amazing as the good-natured, agreeable company member Nate and as the king's enforcer, Sir Robert Cecil. Christine Albright shines as Judith, delivering soliloquies though she's not that fond of them. John Tufts and Gregory Linington are actors and conspirators and guards and lawyers and executioners. (That's Heald, left, as Shag and Haugen as Cecil in the festival photo by Jenny Graham above at right.)

The production moves deftly between rehearsal and stage, between the dungeon and the court, as Shag figures out how to equivocate on his gig to write the "official" version of history, and to tell his truth as well. It is purposely playing this season, at the same time as OSF's productions of Henry VIII and Macbeth, with which it makes a sweet trio of theater.

Equivocation runs at OSF several times each week through the end of October. It comes to Seattle in November for a run at the Rep, and the plan is to bring this same cast north. Do not miss it. I want to see it again tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow.


John said...

You know, quite apart from being interested in your thoughts on the show, I'm learning things about writing reviews from your blog. Your first and last lines, in particular, are just wonderful.

I don't suppose you'd like to get together for a night of Equivocation here in Seattle would you? You and the Official Scorekeeper, of course, and my own sweetie if I can convince her...

"No" is a perfectly acceptable answer, by the way; I realize we hardly know each other. :) But then, that's the fun of Ashland isn't it?

Weisenheimer said...


Thanks for your kind words about the reviews. They're fun to do and I'm glad to hear that someone besides Sweetie enjoys them!

We'd be unequivocally happy to take in a performance of Equivocation when it comes north!


Sweetie the Official Scorer said...

Hi John! We think it would be great fun to get together for Equivocation and to compare notes on OSF. You can email me at cynthia dot scheiderer dot gmail dot com and we'll set it up!