Indiana Repertory Theatre, Upperstage; through March 6.
James DeVita’s solo performance (the third and last in the IRT’s Going Solo series) was inspired by Ian McKellen’s Acting Shakespeare, which chronicled that great British actor’s path to and on the stage.
Seeing that one-man show as a young man in 1983, DeVita (a fisherman at the time) discovered what he wanted to do with his life: to perform Shakespeare so that actions match the words and the words will touch anyone, regardless of education or class.
The best of DeVita’s story captures the naive audacity that nudges a young man to audition for a New York drama school with a “monologue” from Jaws and apply to England’s most prestigious acting schools with three non-speaking college theater roles under his belt.
Though DeVita failed to catapult himself to greatness in these early attempts, hard work finally took him to a Wisconsin theater troupe, where he has since spent two decades revisiting Shakespeare’s words and luring audiences to do the same.
DeVita’s seemingly self-directed performance, including some commanding Shakespearean soliloquies and some masterful lighting by Ryan Koharchik, is funny, tender and moving, but it is not a finished work. Advertised as 90 minutes, In Acting Shakespeare runs two hours plus with an awkwardly placed intermission and ending. DeVita needs to fix his focus on transforming a lifetime of performing into one solid performance.