Bill Cain’s Equivocation is probing, exciting, and great theatre

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Bill Cain’s play, Equivocation, is being presented in its Philadelphia premiere at the Arden Theatre Company until December 13.

Equivocation is an intelligent new play written by a Shakespeare scholar which asks the question, “What if Shakespeare was ordered to write a play he didn’t want to write?” In short, the playwright has King James the Sixth (of Scotland), who is now also James the First (of England), commission Shakespeare to write the official story of The Gunpowder Plot which was said to have been a terrorist act meant to blow up Parliament with the Lords and Royal Family inside it.  During the play, evidence mounts against it really being a real revolt. Britons still celebrate this event on Guy Fawkes’ Day. Along the way, we hear a learned Jesuit “equivocate” an argument to his own advantage (To equivocate is to be ambiguous or evasive), we meet the unfortunate young men who were duped and tortured for political reasons, witness a few executions, hear a severed head speak, meet Shakespeare’s unloved daughter and squabbling members of the Globe Theatre. And then there is more. We have witty repartee, intellectual games, and numerous references which any Shakespearean would delight in. So, does that mean that the play is meant only for Shakespeare experts? On the contrary; just as an opera can be viewed and heard and appreciated by the novice and the experienced, so too can this play. Equivocation is a rollercoaster which will propel you into enjoyable flights of conjecture and thought. It is a true art work for adults.   


Directed by Terence J. Nolen, the expert cast has extensive experience in works by Shakespeare. The program listed all the works each actor has been in. Only the sole actress has no Shakespearean experience. The six principal actors assumed numerous roles. They are (as listed in the program): Eric Hissom as Shag (Shakespeare used many spellings to his name, so Cain uses “Shagspeare.”); Dan Hodge as Nate; Sean Lally as Sharpe; Tony Lawton as Armin; Ian Merrill Peakes as Richard; and Campbell O’Hare as Judith, Shakespeare’s daughter.

The artistic team included the already mentioned Mr. Nolen who directed with a sure hand, allowing his actors to breathe life into their characters. Other members of the team are David Gordon, scenic designer, Rosemarie E. McKelvey, costumes, Solomon Weisbard, lighting, and Jorge Cousineau, sound. The fight director is Ian Rose. There is a brief nude scene.

Next at the Arden will be Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, a world premiere written by Laura Eason, November 24 through January 31; Funnyman, a world premiere by Bruce Graham, January 14 through March 6; and Two Trains Running, by August Wilson, March 10 through April 10. Located at 40 North 2nd Street in Philadelphia, the Arden has two stages: the Arcadia Stage and the F. Otto Haas Stage. For more information, call 215-922-1122 or visit

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