Beyland and Brown have gathered a dream ensemble of actor’s actors for this challenging show. The cast creates a complex rapport among the troupe members, with all their insecurities, battles, and deep-seated love; they excel equally at clowning in loincloths, enacting torture and disembowelment, and finding unlikely communion (when Shag helps Wintour simply to hold a pen, the prisoner falls sobbing against him in gratitude and release). The work especially of Gagne, Carlsen, and Holt, as each navigates their wide-reaching roles, is breathtaking.
And Cain’s breadth and depth of allusion and comment are formidable, from monarchical lineage to Cecil’s critique of Shag’s safe-playing oeuvre as “all things to all men” and “endless and universal flattery.” Above all Equivocation cares about the art — and the artifice — of narrative in our lives. “Torture is against British laws,” James chirps glibly. “Therefore, we don’t have torture.” And: “You can’t legislate a soul into a country,” sneers Cecil. “For that, you need a story.” As Shag reconsiders his responsibilities as a storyteller, Cain’s play seems to propose that not just his troupe, but other equally theatrical cooperative ventures — families, communities, nations — could stand some practice in the art of telling truth.

Equivocation, by Bill Cain | Directed by Keith Powell Beyland and Peter Brown | Produced by Dramatic Repertory Company, at the Portland Ballet Studio Theater, through June 8 | 800.838.3006 or dramaticrep.org

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