left, T. Stacy Hicks, Eva Nimmer, Jonathan Smoots,
Josh Krause, David Cecsarini and Mark Ulrich in
Next Act’s “Equivocations.”
is a common human behavior. It begins when we’re very
young and we use it to escape punishment or loss of
have fashioned many names for it, which is always true
when we are uncomfortable with a phenomenon. We can call
it fudging, telling a white lie, fibbing, stretching the
truth or prevarication or equivocation, fancier words
seem to be the masters of it, no matter what name you
give it - fake news or alternative facts anyone?
Act’s present offering, an almost-three-hour
production that flies by, is tantalizing for its
complexity, its intrigue and its masterful acting. Also
for its relevance in today’s corrupt and cowardly
political climate. No wonder PolitiFact is kept so busy.
in William Shakespeare’s time, when this prolific
playwright had already established himself as a smashing
success, many times being paid by the reigning king or
queen to produce a play for their entertainment, he was
approached by Robert Cecil, secretary of state to Queen
Elizabeth and right-hand man to her successor, King
James I. He requested a play about the Gunpowder Plot, a
scheme to blow up the king, Parliament and anyone else
who happened to be occupying the surrounding area. He
wanted the king and his cronies to look squeaky clean
despite their machinations.
turns out to be a play about artistic integrity despite
possible consequences, about compromising one’s
conscience to gain profit. Shakespeare and his company
are torn between pleasing the king or compromising the
historical facts. As The Bard put it, “Die or Lie.”
of the six actors perform multiple roles, all except
Mark Ulrich (Shakespeare) and Eva Nimmer (Judith,
Shakespeare’s daughter). There is a subplot regarding
this father-daughter relationship, which also sparks our
interest. It is not that well-known that Shakespeare
lost a son to the plague, and afterwards treated his
son’s twin, Judith, poorly, because he did not deem
her as worthy of his attention and affection as his son
had been. Little-known personal tidbits are always fun
to learn of.
gunpowder plotters were caught before they were able to
carry out their scheme, along with an innocent Jesuit
priest, Father Garnet, who was falsely accused and
killed. Jonathan Smoots was stellar in this role, by the
way. The method of execution in those days was ruthless
and bereft of all humanity. Hard to believe sometimes,
man’s capacity for cruelty.
Shakespeare was able to please the king as well as be
true to himself. I guess he learned the art of
equivocation. He even redeemed his father role with
Judith, a touching scene.
cast of master actors includes David Cecsarini, who
aptly played the ambitious, slimy Cecil; Josh Krause,
who was especially impressive in his role as prisoner
Wintour; and T. Stacy Hicks, who shone as Prosecutor
Edward Coke. Eva Nimmer
had an interesting role to play as the cooperative,
neglected daughter with a sharp critical mind, who dared
to critique her father’s “masterpieces.” And, of
course, Ulrich, always good, was good again.
drama certainly challenges our own use of equivocation
and our motives for compromising truth. (If you never
use it, you’re lying.)
usual, Next Act offers us another rich, substantive
script, written by Jesuit Bill Cain, and beautifully
directed by Michael Cotey. Long live Next Act.
AT A GLANCE
The play runs through Feb. 25 at Next Act Theatre, 255
S. Water St., Milwaukee.
Call 414-278-0765 or visit