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BWW Interview: James Michael Reilly in EQUIVOCATION at STNJ
By Marinna Kennedy
| The Daily Record

Equivocation will be the next play performed on the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) stage from September 16th through October 4th. Written by Bill Cain and directed by Paul Mullins, the show is making its New Jersey Premiere. The play is a fictional imagining of the "birth" of one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. It promises to intrigue Shakespeare fans, history buffs, conspiracy theorists, political junkies and everyone who enjoys a great, wild tale.

In Equivocation, the Bard and his troupe receive a royal commission to dramatize the events surrounding the infamous Gunpowder Plot. The artist must confront the demons of his past, his present, his obligations to the truth, artistic integrity and his two families, his actual one and his theatrical one. Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview James Michael Reilly, who plays the leading role of Shakespeare (called "Shag," after the playwright's favorite old spelling of the name). He spoke with us about the play and his career. Click here to read more.

Reimagining Shakespeare
By Gary Wien
| New Jersey Stage

In a rare departure from the classics, Shakespeare himself will make an appearance on stage in the next production at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. The company is presenting the New Jersey Premiere of Equivocation by Bill Cain from September 16 through October 4. The play takes us behind the scenes as Shakespeare is made an offer he cannot refuse by the Prime Minister of England.

“What if Shakespeare had been hired by the Government of England to write the official dramatic account of the Gunpowder Plot?” asked James Michael Reilly, a veteran member of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey who portrays Shag (short for Shagspeare, the contemporary spelling of The Bard’s name). “And then, what if in attempting to create that presentation he discovered that the Government’s story did not hold together? It’s a realization that he and his acting company were faced with a very stark choice - lie or die.” Click here to read more.

Reviews:

Shagspeare on stage at Shakespeare Theatre
By C.W. Walker
| Asbury Park Press

For over 20 seasons now, some two decades, audiences of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey have been watching company vet James Michael Reilly in a variety of supporting and featured roles.

Soft-voiced and balding, he’s a versatile, dependable actor, specializing in decent everymen like the sheriff in “To Kill A Mockingbird” and the kindly editor in “Our Town.” But Reilly can do comedy too, employing his tall, lanky frame to uproarious effect. These are the showy, over-the-top parts like Masha’s stodgy husband in “Three Sisters,” the hilariously hypocritical Anabaptist in “The Alchemist” and the self-important duke in “A Comedy of Errors.” He also provided a memorable Bottom in a holiday-themed “A Midwinter’s Night’s Dream.” Click here to read more.

EXHILARATING “EQUIVOCATION” OFFERS INTELLIGENT VIEW OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS
By Ruth Ross
| NJ Arts Maven

What is the role of theater? Artistic? Political? Social? A mirror of real life or something fanciful? And whose purpose does it serve? These weighty questions are the heart of Bill Cain's intelligent comic drama, Equivocation, in its exhilarating New Jersey premiere at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison.

An antidote to the manic Broadway musical,Something RottenEquivocation posits a situation in which a playwright named Shagspeare, a member of a "cooperative company" of actors at the Globe Theatre is commissioned (read: ordered) to write a play about The Gunpowder Plot, an attempt by a group of men who cling to the "old religion" (Catholicism) to blow up Parliament and the new King, James, by tunneling under the building and placing 36 barrels of gunpowder in a room below. The problem: Shag is unconvinced that the plot ever happened (too many details remain unexplained) and balks at writing what is essentially propaganda for the Crown. His reasons, however, are more artistic than political—at least at first. For one thing, nothing happened; the plot was discovered and foiled. No conflict = no drama—Theater 101. Click here to read more.

‘Equivocation’ Shakespeare tale starring Shakespeare! Excellent!
By Rick Busciglio
| NJ Footlights

The New Jersey premiere of Bill Cain’s Equivocation opened at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison this past weekend. It is a backstage comedy-drama set in the Jacobean era with Will Shakespeare as a central character! It is a pure treat for Shakespeare lovers.

The play concerns the infamous "Gunpowder Plot of 1605" It was an attempt to blow up the Parliament building...with the King in it! It has been immortalized in the nursery rhyme that starts with "Remember, remember the fifth of November." That date is "celebrated' throughout Great Britain by many as Guy Fawkes Day with fireworks and bonfires. Fawkes was the only conspirator who was caught with the gunpowder....later, after appropriate persuasion (the non-friendly variety), he provided the names of his co-conspirators. The King was James I, son of the beheaded Mary Queen of Scots.  James is also King James the VI of Scotland. He sits on the united throne as the head of the Protestant church. Click here to read more.

BWW Review: EQUIVOCATION at STNJ is Fascinating Drama
By Marina Kennedy
| Broadway World

Equivocation is making its New Jersey Premiere at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) through October 4th. Playwright, Bill Cain has crafted an original and emotive theatrical piece that is completely enthralling. With the creative and meticulous direction of acclaimed actor and director Paul Mullins and a stellar cast, Equivocation is like nothing you've seen before. This is a show with a strikingly broad appeal.

Set at the Globe Theater and other areas of London in 1606, Equivocation is a fictional imagining of the development of one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. Shakespeare, nicknamed Shag, and his "cooperative" troupe receive a royal commission to dramatize the events surrounding the infamous Gunpowder Plot. The Bard and his theatrical colleagues confront questions of integrity as they struggle with the creation of the play, the truth about the Gunpowder Plot, and their personal considerations. Equivocation is laced with conflict, as the ruling class was oppressive and dictatorial. Yet there are humorous moments and clever anecdotes about actors, playwrights and theater. As Shag comments, "Even a tragedy should have something in it to make people laugh." Click here to read more.

Where there’s a Will there’s a way: Shakespeare craftily triumphs in ‘Equivocation’
By Jay Lustig
| NJ Arts

If writing plays doesn’t work out, career-wise, for Bill Cain, he can probably be quite successful as a theater critic. In his “Equivocation,” which opened last weekend at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at Drew University in Madison, he has William Shakespeare say about “Macbeth,” “Five acts of politics and pornography, nothing more. It will run for centuries!” He also has Shakespeare daughter dismiss “King Lear” as a play about “an old man who causes the death of his three daughters and, when it’s over, everyone feels sorry for him.”

A great deal of the entertainment value of this 2009 comedy comes in the literary references — some very obvious, and some more subtle. It’s also a story that seems very modern, despite being set in 1606. Click here to read more.

No Doubt– STNJ’s “Equivocation” ROCKS
By Sherri Rase
| Q On Stage

“Remember remember the fifth of November” is the start of the British reminder of a near-tragedy, when Guy Fawkes and a handful of plotters allegedly planned to assassinate King James I, with his wife and children, along with several members of Parliament, with 36 kegs of gunpowder placed in a room beneath. Luckily the plot was foiled but, when you examine the circumstances surrounding this event, there are questions that emerge for logical thinking people. Perhaps it didn’t happen quite the way history has recorded it.

Bill Cain’s “Equivocation” has its New Jersey premiere as Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s (STNJ) latest production. This play originally appeared in 2010 and it posits a plausible alternative genesis of a historic event to what generally presents. Everyone who’s ever thought there’s more to meet the eye in 400-year-old history, as well as in current events, will find plenty to love in this production that scintillates, even as it chills the heart with the depth of possibilities that it stirs up. In fact, when a 14-year-old child’s science project clock is claimed to be a bomb, but the protocol of how he and the situation were treated doesn’t follow that protocol, this play could be ripped from today’s headlines as well. Click here to read more.

Delightfully Brilliant Equivocation Doesn't Know When to Stop
By Bob Rendell | Talkin Broadway

A bit of background. In 1605, English Catholics, who had been persecuted for refusing to accept the primacy of the Church of England, organized "The Gunpowder Plot" to assassinate King James I and the English parliamentary government by blowing up the Parliament Building. One morning Catholic activist Guy Fawkes was discovered in the basement of that building, leading to a search which uncovered 36 hidden barrels of gunpowder.

The conceit of Bill Cain's often delightfully entertaining and intellectually stimulating Equivocation is that in 1606 England's King James I prepared a highly fictionalized, self-aggrandizing account of the uncovering of the plot, and then commissioned and coerced—through the ministrations of his Chief Minister, the evil and dangerous Robert Cecil—Shakespeare to dramatize his account. Although there is never any doubt that the author is the Bard of Avon, his name here is Shagspeare, and he is usually addressed as Shag. Click here to read more.

EQUIVOCATION The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
Blogspot

Bill Cain's Equivocation demonstrates the influence of the theater over the public and the power of authority over entertainment in the early 1600's.

Under pressure from the King, Shagspeare is commissioned to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot, a plan to blow up the court and the King. Since the plan is a current event and one without a real life ending, Shagspeare declined. Under the strong arm of Cecil, senior minister to the king, 'Shag' finally relents. The real ending is undefined since the real story has not yet unfolded adding to the pressure of the play's creation. If the performance ends with leveling of Parliament and the death of the king, the writer and actors feared that they would be hung. If it ended well, the story would not be interesting. This drummed up a lot of conflict between Shag and Cecil as well as Shag and his company but bought resolution to his relationship with his daughter, a surviving twin. The result is Macbeth, a powerful play with interlaced Gunpowder Plot references. Click here to read more.

'Equivocation' is unequivocally outstanding
By Gwen Orel
| Montclair Times

When you say "Macbeth" in a theater, unless you are rehearsing the play, bad things happen. (It's true. I once saw a stage manager pooh-pooh this and say "Macbeth, Macbeth, Macbeth." A moment later stagehands screamed as the slip-stage didn't stop and crashed into the wall.)

This is why you hear actors say "The Scottish play."

Some people say Shakespeare used real spells from Scottish witches in the play. Some people say that King James I of England (aka James VI of Scotland), for whom Shakespeare wrote it, presented Shakespeare with the story, or even a draft. Click here to read more.

Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey presents the New Jersey premiere of Bill Cain's 'Equivocation'
NorthJersey.com

For its fourth production of the season, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is not doing a play by Shakespeare, but a play about Shakespeare. The play is Bill Cain's brilliant, complex, multi-faceted, thoroughly entertaining, meta-theatrical fantasia, "Equivocation."

Actually, saying it's a play about Shakespeare is a mammoth over-simplification.

"Equivocation" is about a 1605 plot by Catholics in England to end religious persecution by assassinating the Scottish King James who sat on the English throne, and blowing up Parliament. It's about the members of a theater company fighting among themselves and for survival and it's about the clash between art and politics, truth and propaganda, the moral obligation of writers to speak truth to power. It's the story of a father grieving for a lost son and a daughter seeking love from an emotionally-distant father. Click here to read more.

‘Equivocation’ shines a new light on the Bard’s character
By Karen Nowosad
| Examiner.com

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is known for their renowned work with the classic works of William Shakespeare. They can take one of his time honored plays and present it in such a manner that it allows people to see a 400 year old play from an entirely new vantage point. When this happens, one cannot help but wonder what was the man behind these magnificent creations really like? Was he inventive, how did he grow during his writing career, and even what led to the eventual conclusion of the writing part of his life?

These questions are something to consider with the production currently running at the Shakespeare Theatre in Madison with the play “Equivocation.” It is a play that provides theater-goers with a unique take on Shakespeare as a writer. It offers a chance to speculate on what might have lead the Bard to write “Macbeth” which many regard as one of his darkest and yet most powerful works. It also provides a theory on why Shakespeare’s final plays were written as they were. “Equivocation” is a must see for fans of the Bard because not only does it speculate on a new theory, but it also provides one of the most human and humbling portrayals of him. There are only a few days left to see this show in Madison so make it a point to get there before it closes on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Click here to read more.

'Equivocation' A funny and challenging tale of the Bard from the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ
By Bob Brown
| The Princeton Packet

What if Shakespeare had been commissioned to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot? That’s the premise of Bill Cain’s challenging yet hilarious Equivocation at F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre in Madison through Oct. 4. It’s ripping good fun.

I say challenging, because Mr. Cain presupposes you already know the historical background. Are you thoroughly versed in the culture and politics of England’s Jacobean Era? Fear not. Just study the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s excellent online audience guide before attending this play. There will not be a test. But you’ll get a lot more out of the plot (both historical and theatrical), as well as the jokes. Click here to read more.

This Play About the 1605 British Gunpowder Plot to Blow Up the King and the Parliament Mostly Hits the Target
By Bruce Chadwick
| History News Network

What could be more historically interesting that a play about the well-known plot by Guy Fawkes and others to explode 36 barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords and blow up the British Parliament and kill King James I in 1605? You have an assassination, mass murder, the destruction of the entire English government and conspirators under every rug in London. Terrific.

That’s what the King thought, too, and in Bill Cain’s play Equivocation, His Majesty and his aides order William Shakespeare to write a play about it. This is not just any play, though. In it, according to the King and his henchman, Robert Cecil, the men they named as conspirators were all guilty and engaged in various acts of treason that seemed a bit, well, invented. The real plot, that has been celebrated every year in Britain as symbolic of the start of modern British history, was murky enough. People did and did not say something, did or did not do something, maybe and maybe not met somewhere to plan something. Guy Fawkes was caught in the basement of Parliament with the gunpowder and the plot was halted. Click here to read more.