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James DeVita Delights in “In Acting Shakespeare”

Theater Review

Jul. 15, 2009
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"Most of the characters I play are taller than me," quipped actor James DeVita during his one-man performance, In Acting Shakespeare. The show opened American Players Theatre's new, intimate Touchstone Theatre on July 10 in Spring Green. DeVita's confession, part of an evening of personal revelations mixed with "Shakespeare's greatest hits," brought gales of laughter from the capacity crowd.

DeVita adapted In Acting Shakespeare from Sir Ian McKellen's similar autobiographical performance, which inspired DeVita when he saw it in 1983. The two-hour performance chronicles DeVita's life, his discovery of acting and Shakespeare, and how the two elements turned the one-time commercial fisherman from Long Island, N.Y., into one of the area's most accomplished stage performers. DeVita avoids a narcissistic journey down memory lane, instead mixing sketch comedy with poignancy for a truly hilarious recollection of personal development, often told in a thick New York accent. Along the way DeVita impersonates everyone from his own mother to famous Shakespearean actor Richard Burbage, who questions the Bard about his choice of words: "William, whatever is a 'bodkin'?"

DeVita devotees will dote on the performance, discovering new sides of the man who once wanted to be the "Gene Kelly of Shakespeare." The rest of us will sit back and enjoy what could be the funniest performance ever to trod APT's boards.


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