Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Equivocation—Post 5 Theatre—SE Portland

“…Mightier Than the Sword”

This heady, comedy-drama is written by Bill Cain (with additional dialogue by W. Shakespeare) and directed by Paul Angelo.  It is playing at their space in the Sellwood area, 1666 SE Lambert St. (parking lot in the rear), through October 3rd.  For more information, go to their site at www.post5theatre.org


The Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes are well known names in English history.  In the early 1600’s purportedly a group of men, under Fawkes, dug tunnels under Parliament to plant powder kegs and blow up the Scottish King, James I.  The plot was discovered before it came to fruition and the men were arrested and executed.  But, according to Cain, there might be more to the story than originally reported.

In this “fictionalized” account, the plot may have actually had a more sinister side and maybe some insight on how the underbelly of government did (and, possibly, still does) operate.  Conspiracy, oh, yes, and a lot more.  And the answer, if one is asked about any sort of conspiracy, is simple—equivocate.  Be inconclusive, ambiguous, hedge your responses, cloak the meanings, in other words, lie, but do it in such a way that it sounds plausible.

In such matters, Truth never seems to be the issue, as that is elusive, flexible, in the eye of the beholder.  So, if you dare, you must dig for the question beneath the question and, if discovered, will you dare to answer it truthfully.  Ah, the art of deception and the layers of conceit.  Such a dilemma…

To begin the story, we have the erudite, William Shagspeare (Keith Cable), rehearsing with his company at the Globe Theatre, his play, King Lear.  His main actor and leader of the company is the bombastic, Richard (Todd Van Voris).  Other company members consist of the not so sharp, Sharpe (Ty Boice), an arrogant young buck and Armin (Jim Vadala), a rather funny fellow who usually plays the ladies in the show or the clowns.  And there is also the sullen, Judith (Rebecca Ridenour), William’s daughter, who acts as the costumer, laundress and all-around critic of his writings.

But now this company of consummate actors must decide on a very unusual assignment, whether to adapt a contemporary story, penned by the King, James I, of a political nature for a rather princely sum of money.  The King’s “beagle,” Cecil (Matthew Smith) has been instructed to oversee this project.  Because of past wrongs, Cecil has no love of William but does admire his work and admits the pen has a lasting power that the sword does not.

But William, not being an original playwright as far as stories, does have questions as to the Gunpowder Plot, as far as logic and motivation are concerned.  So, since the conspirators are still alive, he chooses to interview them and get to the real story behind the plot.  But this is a slippery slope, being that if he does discover facts, contrary to what the King purports, does he have the courage to re-write it and portray the “truth?”  And, as the Bard would say, “thereby hangs a tale.”

To tell you too much more would ruin discoveries of the intricate plot that the audience should make.  It is notable that most of the actors in the Globe company also take on significant other roles, as Boice also plays the Scottish King, and Winter, one of the conspirators, and a witch, et. al.; Vadala, the judge in the trial and a witch, et. al.; Van Voris, the priest conspirator, Garnet and Fawkes, et. al.; and Smith, one of the acting troupe and a witch, et. al.  And, believe it or not, at times, all these duplicate roles are played at the same time as their other characters, an amazing tour-de-force for these excellent actors.

This complicated script is very wordy, although plenty of action included.  It is also very heady material and gives you a lot to think about, both from that era and, possibly, present day.  The Roswell story, and the films, Wag the Dog, Oliver Stone’s JFK, and Conspiracy Theory come to mind as points of comparison.  It does have its share of violence, too, so should be considered adult material.

Angelo has done a super-human job of connecting all the dots in the story, which couldn’t have been easy, and inspiring an inspirational cast.  Every one of the actors has done exceptional work.  I especially liked Boice’s  James I, playing the foppish King with glee; Van Voris is always a treat to watch and his Garnet, the soul of the argument as to the meanings of Equivocation, was totally convincing in selling his viewpoints; Vadala easily jumps back and forth between a clownish actor to a hateful judge; Ridenour’s silences speak volumes; Cable is very believable as the conflicted writer; and Smith, as the crippled, Cecil, gives us a masterful performance, portraying the heart and mind of an Equivocator.

It is, indeed, a sad note that the Boices’ are leaving later on in the Season to continue their continued search for artistry.  But they have left a very fine legacy behind, which I’m sure will grow, perhaps, beyond what they imagined.  I wish them God’s Speed in their quest (and Keaton’s), with no “equivocation!”  You’ll be missed, my friends.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.