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Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012

One-Man Shakespeare

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The problem in acting Shakespeare, according to James DeVita, is making the Bard's language accessible and his emotions honest for the common viewer. The purpose of In Acting Shakespeare, DeVita's one-man show that returned after a three-year absence to American Players Theater's Touchstone Theater, is to chronicle the talented actor/director/writer's career trajectory in its service to those goals.

DeVita was a student at a community college on his native Long Island, N.Y., 25 years ago when he saw Sir Ian McKellan's one-man Broadway show Acting Shakespeare. It changed the life of the former fishing boat first mate forever, setting him on course to become one of the Midwest's most highly regarded actors.

DeVita's self-written narrative, revised since its 2009 premiere, parallels his own development with that of Shakespeare, who started in theater as an actor. With a scholar's eye for detail and a novelist's ear for embellishment, DeVita creates scenes both plausible and hilarious. One learns more about Shakespeare, his art and his intent during the two-hour performance than in most college courses, and the lesson is breezier, more enjoyable and much funnier than expected.

Through his considerable acting talents under John Langs' direction, DeVita takes what could have been one long self-congratulatory exercise and turns it into a compelling gift to his audience. In Acting Shakespeare should be required viewing at the start of each APT season for anyone even remotely interested in understanding the Bard. The subsequent “Shakespearience” could only benefit in the process.

In Acting Shakespeare
runs through Oct. 4.
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