EQUIVOCATION, at Actors’NET at the Heritage Center Theatre in Morrisville, is a play about the connection of politics and art, but it is so much more for someone like me who loves and studies Shakespeare. Penned by Bill Cain, a Jesuit priest who sees writing plays as a part of his calling, EQUIVOCATION tells the speculative story of Shakespeare being commissioned to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. In the hands of director, Cheryl Doyle and her excellent troupe of actors, every note of this multi-layered play rings unequivocally true.
Dale Simon as the Shakespeare character leads the audience on a journey of awareness that deals with revenge, betrayal, discovery and manipulation. He does so with an ease that makes the audience unaware of its participation. As the manipulative Sir Robert Cecil, Barry Abramowitz captures the difficult combination of gamester and victim with great nuance. John Bergeron demonstrates great versatility playing the youthfully energetic Sharpe, the victimized conspirator, Tom Wintour, and the cleverly playful, King James I. Andrew James Gordon plays many supportive roles with sincerity and delineation and Morgan Petronis undertakes what could be a thankless role as Shakespeare’s daughter, Judith and turns her into an apt foil to the peripatetic troupe of Elizabethan actors.
George Hartpence, in addition to designing a wonderful and thematically appropriate set, portrays the pivotal roles of Richard Burbage and Father Garnet. As Burbage he captures the difficulty of running a troupe of egotistical actors in a time of political turmoil. As Garnet he provides a clever conscience for the unsure Shakespeare as he explains to him the true meaning of “equivocation.” The lighting by Andrena Wishnie as well as the sound and costumes by director Doyle contribute mightily to an atmosphere that allows the actors to take us back to Elizabethan times.
For myself, one of the greatest conceits of the play is the infusion of many lines from MACBETH into the play that the troupe is attempting to write about the Gunpowder Plot. It culminates in the performance by the players of same MACBETH as their alternative to the dangerous and unequivocally false play Shakespeare was commissioned to write. It is a triumph of clever over evil and a true demonstration of Shakespeare’s new-found understanding of equivocation. The play runs until November 16th and is well worth the trip for lovers of good theater, and especially worth it for lovers of Shakespeare.
by Bill Cain
Directed by Cheryl Doyle
October 31 – November 16th
The Actors’ Net of Bucks County
The Heritage Center Theatre
635 N. Delmorr Ave.
Morrisville, PA 19067