NEW YORK (AP) — A good one-man show leaves the audience wanting more, which is exactly what happens with James DeVita's satisfactory piece, "In Acting Shakespeare."
DeVita is an ingratiating host throughout his comical and expressive show, which opened Sunday night off-Broadway at The Pearl Theatre. He relates that attending a 1987 performance of Sir Ian McKellen's solo show "Acting Shakespeare" transformed DeVita's life, to the point where he eventually got permission from McKellen to create his own version, crediting John Langs as the original director.
Since seeing McKellen, DeVita says he's spent the past 25 years trying to learn to "make Shakespeare's language actually sound like a person talking." In his words, "I wanted to be kind of like the Gene Kelly of Shakespeare," which he explains as "a regular guy who just happened to speak poetry." Genially and sometimes ruefully, he recounts his insecurities and difficulties with acting.
More than credibly performing parts of famous Shakespearean speeches, and discussing some of the great actors who've done so, DeVita also relates or enacts seminal events in his own and Shakespeare's lives.
Starting with his own three attempts to stay in college and his early career cleaning fish on a Long Island charter boat, he goes on to imagine how young country boy William might have seen his first theater troupe, and how later on he might have argued with his father about leaving the family wool shop and going off to London to be a playwright and actor.