Tony Award winner Garry Hynes (The Beauty Queen of Leenane) directs the darkly comic rumination on an artist's role to himself and his art in a society where unrest hovers in the air. Manhattan Theatre Club's new Off-Broadway production, which began previews Feb. 10 after a delay of one day, features Remy Auberjonois, Michael Countryman, David Furr, John Pankow (as Shakespeare, or "Shagspeare," as he's called here), Charlotte Parry (as his daughter Judith) and Tony Award nominee David Pittu.
According to MTC, "Bill Cain's new play set in 1605 England begins when King James' right hand man (David Pittu) commissions William Shakespeare (John Pankow) to write a new play about the Gunpowder Plot, a recent failed attempt to blow up Parliament and the Monarchy. Equivocation is a bold new look at the greatest playwright ever in a drama whose contemporary parallels are unmistakable and whose laughter is abundant — a work of startling revelations and vibrant theatricality."
The play is many things at once: a backstage comedy, a historical drama, a (fictional) story of how one of Shakespeare's greatest plays (Macbeth) was born, and even a mystery-thriller as Shakespeare conducts research (in jail cells, no less) to better tell the tale of the Gunpowder Plot.
Hynes' production underlines the timeless ideas of the play (government pressure, fathers and children, professional loyalty) by mixing modern dress with classical costume pieces, and the action takes place on a dark, almost industrial set that includes steel doors that slide open, or slam shut. Like most Shakespeare plays, the action takes place on a mostly bare set.
The production features scenic and costume design by Francis O'Connor, lighting design by David Weiner, sound design by David Van Tieghem and Brandon Wolcott and fight direction by David Brimmer. Equivocation plays New York City Center – Stage I (131 West 55th Street). Tickets are on sale to March 28.
Equivocation had its world premiere at the 2009 Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and was originally developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference. It was part of the New Works Festival at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA, and has played Geffen Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Cain is the author of the widely-produced play Stand-Up Tragedy, which earned six L.A. Critics Awards (including Best Production and Distinguished Writing) in its premiere at the Mark Taper Forum. Stand Up later won four Helen Hayes Awards (including Outstanding Production) at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, before its 1990 Broadway engagement where it received the Joe A. Callaway Playwriting Award. More recently, The Laying on of Hands was developed at the Ojai Playwrights Conference and NYU's HotInk Series. 9 Circles was developed at Ojai and South Coast Rep's Pacific Playwrights Festival. He will return to Ojai this summer with his new play How To Write a New Book For The Bible: A Play For An Older Actress. Cain was the co-creator/writer/producer of "Nothing Sacred," a dramatic television series which premiered in the fall of 1997 on ABC and was awarded a George Foster Peabody Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television.
Hynes was the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Direction for The Beauty Queen of Leenane. She is artistic director of Druid Theatre, Galway, for which she has directed many productions.
Auberjonois appeared in Broadway's The Country Girl, Frost/Nixon and the 2009 run of Irving Berlin's White Christmas.
Countryman's Broadway credits include Night Must Fall, Holiday, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, A Few Good Men and Face Value.
Pankow's New York Shakespeare Festival productions include The Tempest, Measure for Measure, Henry V and Two Gentlemen of Verona. He recently appeared in David Mamet's double bill, School and Keep Your Pantheon at the Atlantic Theater, as well as Christopher Durang's Why Torture is Wrong, and the People who Love Them at the Public Theater. He has appeared on Broadway in Cymbeline, Amadeus, Serious Money, Twelve Angry Men and The Iceman Cometh. He was a regular on the hit series "Mad About You."
Parry was a part of the inaugural year of Sam Mendes' International "Bridge Project," performing in The Cherry Orchard and The Winter's Tale at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, followed by a world tour and a sell-out run at The Old Vic in London. She has appeared on Broadway in the Tony Award winning The Real Thing (also West End, London) and Coram Boy. She created the role of Maureen in the world premiere of Edward Albee's latest play, Me, Myself and I at the McCarter Theatre.
Pittu was Tony Award nominated for playing Bertolt Brecht in Love Musik and multiple roles in Is He Dead? Last season, he wrote and starred in What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling, which received two Outer Critics nominations for Best Off-Broadway Musical and Best Actor in a Musical.
Tickets ($75) for Equivocation are available via New York City Center box office, CityTix at (212) 581-1212 and www.nycitycenter.org.
For more information, visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.