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Shakespeare, terror and Bill Cain's 'Equivocation'

November 14, 2009 | 11:00 am


As he watched the World Trade Center towers implode, Bill Cain, playwright and native New Yorker, felt a surge of fury pass through him. But as an ordained Jesuit priest, he was able to tap into another, equally powerful emotion. “I knew the only way to respond to it was with tenderness as fierce as that anger,” he said recently. “And so the journey from rage to tenderness was what I felt my spiritual work had to be.”

For Cain, 62, that journey also turned out to be the writing of “Equivocation,” a speculative pyrotechnic historical drama set in London in 1605 that will open Wednesday and run through Dec. 20 at the Geffen Playhouse. A hint of the play’s scope and ambition is that its main character is the most celebrated, influential author in the history of the English language.

But William Shakespeare, nicknamed “Shag” and portrayed by Joe Spano (an Emmy nominee for “Hill Street Blues”), is merely one of the complex, colorful personages who populate “Equivocation.”

While the Geffen production of “Equivocation” doesn’t go out of its way to point out parallels between the responses to the events of 1605 and to those of  2001, the soft-spoken Cain makes no bones about his belief that those two historical moments share certain qualities.

“It struck me very much that the politics of the United States is a politics of radical division,” he said. “And what we are trying to do now, as Shakespeare tries to do in the play, is to write a new soul into the country.”

To read Reed Johnson's profile of Cain in Sunday Arts & Books, click here.

Photo: Joe Spano, front left, plays Shakespeare opposite, from left, Troian Bellisario, Brian Henderson and Harry Groener.

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times