A New Shakespeare "History Play" Emerges in Equivocation, With Groener & Spano in L.A.

By Kenneth Jones
18 Nov 2009

Equivocation stars Patrick J. Adams and Connor Trinneer
Equivocation stars Patrick J. Adams and Connor Trinneer
Photo by Michael Lamont

Equivocation, a new play getting a lot of attention around the nation, officially makes its Los Angeles-area premiere, opening Nov. 18 at Geffen Playhouse. Joe Spano stars as William Shakespeare.

In Bill Cain's historical fiction, King James asks Shakespeare to write a history play — and the tension is high. Tony Award nominee Harry Groener plays one of the bard's troupers. Previews began at the Geffen on Nov. 10.

This latest production of the regionally acclaimed play is directed and designed by David Esbjornson.

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.

Coincidentally, Seattle Repertory Theatre's own production of Equivocation begins performances Nov. 18. Manhattan Theatre Club will present the play's Off-Broadway premiere (in a separate production) beginning in February 2010.


At the Geffen, Spano, best known for his roles on television's "NCIS" and "Hill Street Blues," will play Shakespeare, who is called "Shag" in the play. Groener (Broadway's Oklahoma! and Crazy for You) will play Richard, "the second in command of Shag's winsome acting troupe."

The cast includes Patrick J. Adams, Brian Henderson and Connor Trinneer, who comprise the rest of Shag's theatre company — Sharpe, Armin and Nate, respectively.

The cast also features Troian Bellisario as Judith, Shakespeare's omnipresent daughter. Performances continue to Dec. 20.

According to Geffen notes, "As Equivocation's tale unwinds onstage, the actors ultimately play about two dozen roles ranging from conspirators and priests to Lady Macbeth and King Lear. The play tells the story of how King James commissions Shakespeare to write the 'true history' of England's infamous Gunpowder Plot. Yet, as Shag and his troupe begin researching the King's project, they find far more fiction than fact. With the weight of history on their shoulders, the actors struggle to dramatize the King's absurd account without losing their integrity — or their heads."

Equivocation was a recipient of the 2008 Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award for its world premiere production, and in addition, was awarded a special grant from the Edgerton Foundation for two extra weeks of rehearsal for the Geffen Playhouse run.

The production team includes costume designer Frances Kenny, lighting designer Scott Zielinski, sound designer Jon Gottlieb.

For more information, visit GeffenPlayhouse.com.