Chicago Theatre Review
‘Equivocation’ is a Beautiful Use of Timing and Wordplay
By Cat Wilson
The witty, sharp-tongued, and fast-paced Equivocation, by Bill Cain, comes to Victory Gardens. While a troupe of actors, led by the great writer Master Shagspeare (played by Marc Grapey) is presented with the challenge of producing a play commissioned by the King’s right hand man, Cecil (cleverly characterized by Mark Montgomery), they are faced with the hard decision of telling the truth and potentially facing execution, or masking history. The play is supposed to promote the government’s perception of Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt to blow up Parliament and assassinate King James I in 1605, however as Shagspeaare interviews the men involved, he discovers the government’s attempt to cover up the real proceedings. Equivocation, meaning the use of language especially with the intent to deceive, or avoiding committing oneself in what one says, becomes the troupe’s saving grace.
In addition to Grapey and Montgomery, the cast includes Minita Gandhi as Judith (Shagspeare’s daughter), Matt Kahler as Armin, Arturo Soria as Sharpe, and Bruce A. Young as Richard. The whole cast brings an amazing energy to the stage as they dart in and out of their characters, dawning a new side character with such conviction. In true troupe style, costume pieces are thrown on and off to transport an actor into a new chara
cter, but they have also captured a personality quirk such as a limp or a flamboyant Scottish accent to separate each persona.
The design elements follow a similarly fast-paced leap between worlds. The audience is thrown from Shagspeare’s rehearsals to performances to Cecil’s offices. With the show’s constant nods to the art of theatre making, the designers embrace theatricality and present a beautifully unified environment. William Boles’ scenic design allows the space to move and flow with the whirling of the action, and provides dramatic entrances aided by Heather Gilbert’s stunning lighting design. The lights provided the instant shift between performance and rehearsal, aided by the intense sound design by Kevin O’Donnell. Janice Pytel created a fun array of costumes that the actors could throw about as they whipped between characters.
With so much political rhetoric today, Equivocation is a great reminder that the theatre can, and often does, capture history and outlast political agendas. Director Sean Graney leads a talented cast and crew in this brilliant production sure to make you laugh, empathize, and celebrate the sometimes morally difficult process of theater making.
Equivocation, by Bill Cain
Directed by Sean Graney
Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre
2433 N. Lincoln Ave