Monday, February 19, 2018

4 Reasons to see "Equivocation" at Next Act Theatre

One of the best shows I've seen in Milwaukee this season — and let me tell you why

I'll tell you right now: This isn't your average theater review. I saw Equivocation at Next Act Theatre over a week ago now – on a night when I was actually starting to come down with something rather flu-y. That bug knocked me flat on my back for a number of days, and I'm still fighting to get 100% over it. 

So forgive my humanity, but I'm exhausted at the thought of writing a standard review for Bill Cain's brilliant Equivocation. That said, I simply couldn't let this show pass without shouting its praise — even in an unconventional and more candid way. Here are four reasons Equivocation is a must-see.

#1 If you're a fan of Shakespeare, history, and/or politics, get thee to Equivocation

This show is entirely too complicated to explain beyond this Next Act summary: "William Shakespeare is commissioned by Sir Robert Cecil, the most powerful man in England, to write the true history of the Gunpowder Plot — a failed attempt to kill King James I. But as Shag and his actors rehearse their new play, they suspect the government’s version might be a product of 'alternative facts.' Now, the greatest writer of all time must decide between writing a lie and losing his soul, or writing the truth and losing his head." 

If that sounds up your alley, you gotta go. I admit, all the politics aren't necessarily my cup of tea, on paper. We get enough of that in real life, and I don't always relish seeing it at the theater. I'm more of an escapist. However, I was riveted by this story. It's an almost three-hour play (gasp!) but it simply zooms by. I don't know how, but it does. It's amazing.

#2 The cast is uniformly incredible. 

I can't remember the last time I've seen a group of actors ooze such natural camaraderie in an ensemble cast. Nothing about these performances feels forced — the chemistry is genuine, and the individual talent of each actor is undeniable. I want to give each and every one of these phenomenal people a shout out, as they truly blew my mind, but I'll limit myself to two in particular. 

Jonathan Smoots, whose voice is so commanding, he's like our very own Gandalf. Please read me the phone book, Jonathan Smoots. I will listen with rapt attention. And I've got to give it up for Josh Krause, who nailed his various characters with such flow and emotion — he is absolutely spellbinding. But then again, they all are. 

#3 This is the most theatrical show I've seen at Next Act, period.

The set is grand. The experience is immersive. The lighting, staging, and effects are a marvel for a space and theater as intimate as Next Act. This is some world-class dramatization, and it's happening on a (relatively) tiny stage right here in Milwaukee. If really, really good theatrics light your fire, you gotta go.

That said, a word of warning: Equivocation isn't for the faint of heart. It's brutal at times, can be graphic in its language and imagery, and there's at least one squirm-worthy sexual situation. Mature audiences welcome. Youngsters, not so much. 

#4 It's the final week — and Monday is pay-what-you-can night! 

Equivocation runs until February 25th. Monday, February 19th, is pay-what-you-can night. Tickets go on sale at 6:30pm, and the show starts at 7:30. I cannot emphasize enough how very worth your time it would be to take advantage of such a deal. Hands down, this is one of the best things I've seen on a Milwaukee stage this season. Friends, you have one week left to see the gripping, unforgettable Equivocation at Next Act Theatre — just go do it already!

*Photos by Ross Zentner

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