Theatre Review By Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
“Equivocation” at Olympia Little Theatre (OLT) is wild. It is ludicrous. It is funny and tragic and gruesome. Written by Bill Cain and directed at OLT by Pug Bujeaud, the play is a farcical tragedy, a takeoff on and about Shakespeare (Drew Doyle), who is alternately called Shag and Will, his daughter, Judith (Kate Anders), Prime Minister Robert Cecil (Brian Hatcher) and a troop of actors who are all part of a cooperative model theatre company.
Cecil commissions Shag to write a play about a current political intrigue, the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament and assassinate King James I. He insists it must be a “true history,” and it must have lots of witches in it.
Shag’s actors: Sharpe (Rodman Bolek), Armin (Jordan Richards), Nate (Josh Palmer) and Richard (Robert McConkey) are rehearsing a scene from King Lear and arguing about it when Shag interrupts to tell them about the play he’s been commissioned to write and complains he doesn’t believe he can do it, but the actors tell him he’s the man for the job. They’re faced with a moral dilemma: if they tell truth to power by telling the true story they may lose their heads. Shag tells Henry Garnet, a Jesuit priest (also played by McConkey) he has come to learn to equivocate — to tell the truth in his play without getting caught at it. That’s the central plot theme, and the word “equivocate” is repeated many times.
Audiences will need to play close attention or else they will get lost, because the actors play multiple roles and scenes switch from the play they’re rehearsing to real life, and in the process, they take jabs at many of Shakespeare’s plays, especially Macbeth, which they switch to in desperation when they can’t do the play about the assassination plot.
The set by Marko Bujeaud is a simple but lovely backdrop of the back wall of the Glove Theatre with a revolve to effectively and sometimes shockingly change to different scenes.
The action is swift, frequently funny and often gory. The actors who play the part of actors, most noticeably Bolek and Jordan, overact to an absurd degree. (Saying they over act is not a criticism; their over acting is comic gold.)
Bolek’s physicality and extreme changes in emotion is outstanding. At the end of the first act, he switches from playing Sharpe the actor to Thomas Wintour, one of the actual Gunpowder Plot conspirators who is in prison, and he has audience members on the edge of their seats in an end to the act so shocking the intermission is a welcomed respite.
Hatcher nicely plays the Prime Minister as self-assured and demanding. Doyle is an admirable but confused and bumbling Shag, Anders plays Judith as loveable, sweet and sad, and I wish she had had a larger role. McConkey and Palmer both play their characters with subtlety, and McConkey especially shines in his depiction of the priest.
There are graphic execution scenes and harsh language. Though there is plenty of humor, there is nothing light and frothy about this play. It runs approximately two-and-a-half hours with a 15-minute intermission.
(This review appears courtesy The Weekly Volcano.)
7:25 p.m. Friday- Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 23
Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia
$11-$15, $2 student discount