Equivocation is the use of ambiguous language to obscure inconvenient truths. It’s also the title of a stage thriller by Bill Cain, directed by Kathy Dorgan for a Saint Martin’s University production at the State Theater in downtown Olympia. The play premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2009. It follows William Shagspeare (Brian Tyrrell), an alternate spelling of “Shakespeare” from a late-1500s wedding document, as he strives to incorporate the monarchy’s account of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot into a play he’s been assigned by English Secretary of State Robert Cecil. The official explanation strikes the Bard as suspicious; so to make it more plausible, he launches his own investigation into the failed mass-assassination attempt.
Dorgan caught Equivocation at its original, OSF production, then again when it transferred to Seattle Repertory Theatre. “My shoulders hurt,” she remembers, “from leaning forward and listening so hard for every single thing.” She compares her visceral response to the jolt she felt seeing Hamilton’s sixth performance on Broadway.
In Dorgan’s mind, Equivocation comments directly on our time and how it’s documented by artists and journalists, even as public servants labor to reframe self-evident news stories in agenda-supportive ways. She sees the early Jacobean period and ours as polarized, sociopolitical minefields requiring “tiny aggressions and tiny retreats.” Consequently, she views Equivocation as “a story about people in difficult times and how they respond and how they group together, and what they learn about each other and about themselves.” What its protagonist pens will determine whether his head stays connected to his body. Those life-or-death stakes are all too familiar for many present-day journalists.
7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, April 4-13;
2 p.m. Sunday, April 7
Harlequin Productions’ State Theater,
202 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia
$10-$12 (Wednesdays are pay-what-you-can)