March 28th, 2010

La Loge

Equivocation

I knew half-way through Act I that I was going to have a hard time writing about Equivocation, and indeed, I've put off even thinking about it until this morning (although getting the kitchen ready for Passover had something to do with it).   It's 10 pounds of material in a 2 pound play.  Its plot is convoluted, its thematic resonances numerous, its dramatis personae many, varied, and heavily doubled.  In it, Bill Cain (who was a founder of the Boston Shakespeare Company) explores (at a conservative count) the theatre, fathers and sons, religion, salvation, politics, truth, lies, art, language, and the thematic resonances between the political aftermaths of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and 9/11/2001.  Oh, and how The Scottish Play got written, and why. 

Me, I enjoyed every moment (except for the execution of Thomas Wintour--that upset me).  I loved the language, which was heightened without being tortured, and dipped in and out of blank verse and quotations from Shakespeare's sonnets and at least three of his plays and two of Marlowe's (there may have been many more--my memory is not what it was) and modern plain speech without grinding gears or straining my belief in the characters.  I loved the prickly camaraderie among the players of the King's Men, whinging through an early rehearsal of King Lear, simultaneously inspired and appalled by Shagspear's experiments with the traditional tropes and conventions of drama.  I loved Cain's ambition at taking on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and applauded his skill at weaving flashbacks, live action, theatrical quotation, and memory into scenes that I could actually follow without getting too lost.  I loved and adored each several actor, especially David Furr as Sharpe/Thomas Wintour/King James I, who managed to play James and Sharpe as The Scot Who Dare Not Speak His Name in the same scene, wearing the same kilt and black denim doublet (I kid you not), bouncing from chair to stage and back again, pushing a plaid up and down his shoulder and changing expressions and accents on a thin dime.  Also David Pittu as a truly shiver-inducing Sir Robert Cecil and John Pankow as Shagspeare--conflicted, pragmatic, depressed Shagspeare, still mourning the death of his son, killing off characters and ignoring his surviving daughter Judith, who serves as laundress to the King's Men and ironic Female Chorus to the largely irony-free male action. 

And that's all I got.  In order to do the play justice, I'd have to see it again--which isn't likely to happen, given Passover and other commitments.  Those of you who can and are interested, go and judge for yourselves. 

P.S.  Ellen has ordered the script on-line.  We shall read it when it comes, and I may or may not have the bandwidth to write about it here.  It's the sort of play that begs to be written about.  We'll see, shall we?