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Geffen Playhouse to stage 'Equivocation,' with Shakespeare as propaganda tool

April 2, 2009 |  5:00 am

Cain The Geffen Playhouse has picked “Equivocation,” by Bill Cain, a Jesuit priest-cum-playwright, to fill the remaining slot in its coming 2009-10 season.

The play is a piece of speculative historical fiction, set in London of 1606. The complicated premise: A foiled plot to blow up King James and Parliament -- now celebrated as Guy Fawkes Day, after the executed explosives expert who’d stashed multiple kegs of gunpowder under the House of Lords -- didn’t really go down the way the authorities reported it then, and how history has it now. 

Needing to sell the cover-up to his subjects, the king orders no less than William Shakespeare to write a play-as-propaganda -- or else. If squeezing out “Hamlet” was tough, how about trying to write an engaging, artful, eminently Shakespearean drama based on a pack of lies?  

Cain is on the theatrical comeback trail after having scored a lone hit 20 years ago at the Mark Taper Forum with “Stand-Up Tragedy.”  “Equivocation” will have its world premiere April 15 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, where it will remain in repertory through October. The Geffen is mounting its own production with a different cast and director, Nov. 18-Dec. 20.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Bill Cain. Credit: South Coast Repertory