In APT's 'Improbable Fiction,' Shakespeare's characters shelter in place

Posted July 20, 2020

If Cap Times

By Lindsay Christians | The Capital Times | July 17, 2020

These days, a lot of us feel like Falstaff. Irritable, a bit maudlin. Drinking too much.

“A pox on the plague!” the roguish knight exclaims toward the beginning of a new Shakespeare-inspired play. I raise my glass to him. “An Improbable Fiction,” debuting Friday, July 17 at 7 p.m. on PBS Wisconsin, is full of the Bard’s lines, restructured and recast expressly for these pandemic times.

“An Improbable Fiction” is the final installment in American Players Theatre’s “Out of the Woods” online play reading series, which has included “Julius Caesar,” a trio of short comedies by Chekhov and “As You Like It.” 

Fresh from his debut at Asolo Rep in Florida, the author, director and veteran classical actor Jim DeVita spent “three weeks of moping around the porch” earlier this spring. His wife Brenda DeVita, artistic director at APT, was “trying to get me out of my misery,” he explained in a talkback after the reading. She thought he should write something about what was happening in the world, this unsettling, dangerous moment.

He brushed it off. Who wanted to listen to sadness? She suggested, half-jokingly, that he write a play about Shakespeare’s characters being out of work, just like they were.

“Suddenly it didn’t sound so crazy,” he said. He pounded out a rough draft in three weeks. The cast developed it over the next two months, working remotely via video conference with director Tim Ocel.

Jim DeVita describes “An Improbable Fiction” as “a play about friendship.” The title is drawn from “Twelfth Night” and refers to a surprisingly successful prank. This play is more drama than farce, but it’s witty, and there are elements of comedy as Shakespeare’s characters object to how he wrote them.

Read the full review here.