Review: AN IMPROBABLE FICTION at American Players Theatre

With Brian Mani, Sarah Day, Ronald Roman-Melendez, Chike' Johnson, Tracy Michelle Arnold, and Melisa Pereyra

By: Jun. 17, 2021

Review: AN IMPROBABLE FICTION at American Players Theatre

American Players Theatre, oh how I have missed thee. Apparently, I am not alone in this sentiment. The area was alive with joyous laughter, people picnicking, grilling, just enjoying each other's company. The excitement and joy of this day was palpable.

My partner and I were caught up in the excitement of this small crowd. Small due to Covid, but a crowd non-the-less. We social distanced yes, but we all social distanced together. It feels as if there's a freedom in this shared experience, as if we had all just come through some sort of trauma together. And well that we had, a band of brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings coming home from the war with this virus. A war fought mostly in isolation, and now that isolation is coming to an end, at least for me, here at APT.

Dinner eaten, wine drank, and our site cleaned up it was time to make our way up the Hill. American Players Theatre has two theater spaces. The Touchstone, an intimate indoor venue with nary a bad seat in the house, and The Hill. The Hill is a grand outdoor arena in which many a person has enjoyed their foray into both the classics, and modern works. The Hill is the main theater, and where we would be enjoying ourselves tonight.

So up the Hill we went. I admittedly have a love/hate relationship with the hill. I love the spectacle of this theater, the diversity, the talent, the sense of community. I hate the climb. Don't get me wrong, it's not an arduous trek up the side of a mountain, but to this overweight 58-year-old ex-smoker (I quit some 10 years ago) it might as well be. Of course, there is a shuttle, which my partner will not let me take, I keep getting told that "you'll be fine" and of course I am. I make the climb as often as I can over the course of the season and have for years. Tonight however, filled with excitement and the vigor of a much younger 56-year-old man, I barely stop on my way up to the theater.

Tonight's festivities are especially exciting, James DeVita's "An Improbable Fiction"! Six improbable Shakespearean characters hang out at The Boar's Head Tavern during the plague.

It would not be The Boar's Head Tavern without Mistress Nell Quickly (Sarah Day) and Sir John Falstaff (Brian Mani). As Miss Nell enters upstage right, the audience erupts into spontaneous applause, there may have even been a few tears. For some of us, this is the first person we have seen on stage in nearly two years. Ms. Day was very gracious allowing the crowd to work through its collective emotions before moving on. And with That the play was underway.Review: AN IMPROBABLE FICTION at American Players Theatre

Sir John won over the crowd almost immediately with the words, "A Pox on the Plague" causing the audience to erupt in applause once again. We had had just about enough of the plague this year. And with the line, "It's not the damn plague that will kill men, but the solitude", I knew that Mr. DeVita had captured the essence of this last year and had a hit on his hands.

Sir John's banter and on-stage chemistry with Mistress Nell was a pleasure to experience, and Mani's character really took off with the introduction of The Messenger. (Ronald Roman-Melendez) He began to berate the poor soul with hilarious insult after hilarious insult.

There is an irony in The Messenger character. He is a key player in Mr. DeVita's tale. For a bit part in most if not all of the plays with a messenger, he waxes poet about his other small roles, and seems to simply enjoy his lot in life. He also appears to be omniscient, and almost omni-present. As he should be, after all he is The Messenger.

We are soon treated to Chike' Johnson's portrayal of Othello. While he remains ever concerned about his precious Desdemona, he is also very conscious of what it is like to be different than everyone else, all of the time.

This is followed up by the arrival of Cleopatra (Tracy Michelle Arnold), sans Antony. She nearly steals the entire show in a line for line sparing match with The Messenger, as they try to communicate with each other about the well being of Antony. Arnold's over the top, telenovela portrayal of a conclusion jumping, grief-stricken Cleopatra is a pleasure to behold.

Last and certainly not least we are joined by Juliet (Melisa Pereyra). I would not venture to guess how old Ms. Pereyra is, but I can tell you that she plays a teenage girl to the tee. From her entrance onstage with the first word "Why?" we are captured by this adolescent angst and her desire to be her own person. And for reference, Do NOT ask her about Romeo!!

I feel honored that after this last year, Mr. DeVita's play was my re-introduction to theater. I felt that it was written for me, for us. It's a great piece about righting wrongs, making peace with yourself, and understanding what is important. The piece is well written and well-acted.

It is the perfect cast in the perfect play, at the perfect time for it. I say Bravo and Brava to everyone involved. Now, stop reading this and go get tickets!

Review: AN IMPROBABLE FICTION at American Players Theatre Review: AN IMPROBABLE FICTION at American Players Theatre

Review: AN IMPROBABLE FICTION at American Players Theatre



New safety protocols include limited repertory, capacity caps, masks and social distancing in both theaters and on the grounds.

SPRING GREEN, WIS: American Players Theatre (APT) is thrilled to announce its projected 2021 Summer Season. The schedule is set to include six plays, with one production playing at a time in the Hill and Touchstone Theatres. The first two plays will be the world-premiere staging of James DeVita's An Improbable Fiction in the Hill Theatre, and Katori Hall's The Mountaintop in the Touchstone Theatre. Next up will be Tom Stoppard's Rough Crossing (Hill) and a remount of An Iliad (Touchstone), Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare's adaptation of Homer's The Iliad. The third pair will be an adaption of William Shakespeare's Cymbeline by Henry Woronicz (Hill) and Christopher Fry's A Phoenix Too Frequent (Touchstone), which was originally slated for the 2020 season. APT recently announced two plays that will make up the Fall Season - Oedipus by Sophocles, adapted and directed by Core Company Member David Daniel in the Hill Theatre and The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Shana Cooper in the Touchstone Theatre.

Artistic Director Brenda DeVita said, "We are so incredibly grateful that the world is moving in the right direction and we are able to be working on these stories for our audience. Just thinking about being back in our theaters - on our Hill - after the year we've had, is such a relief. We can hardly contain our excitement! The past year we were doing everything in our power just to stay connected to each other, and find some hope, some joy and some inspiration. And now to be contemplating being together in person?! So we have a wonderful, original season planned. And, to be honest it will be a little weird that our rotating repertory has dropped from eight plays at a time to two at a time. But I also think there's opportunity in this structure - first and foremost SAFETY. But also some things we have not been able to do in the past. So we are going to exploit all the changes and warm up to this idea of normalcy again. The actors and artists are so excited to be back, and to perform for our incredible audience again. We can't wait to get started."

An Improbable Fiction and The Mountaintop are on stage now, and some tickets are still available. Tickets for Rough Crossing and An Iliad are on sale now, and tickets for the rest of the season will go on 3 - 4 weeks before the first performance of the plays.

For more information on 2021 tickets, visit

New Safety Protocols on the APT Grounds

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, safety protocols will be in effect in APT's theaters, as well as on the grounds. Some of the changes affecting patrons this summer will be:

  • Masks will be required in the theaters and other indoor spaces. Beginning July 1, masks will no longer be required in the Hill Theatre, though there will be select performances where masks are mandatory.
  • We ask that people socially distance from people outside of their party. Picnic tables will be distanced to accommodate.
  • APT's ticketing software will be automatically distance seats in the theaters when tickets are purchased.
  • For the time being, the Hill and Touchstone Theatres can only be filled to a maximum 25% capacity. Beginning July 1, the capacity will be raised to 50%.

For the latest in safety updates, visit

The 2021 Plays

May 14 - June 19, Touchstone Theatre

The Mountaintop

By Katori Hall

Directed by Ron OJ Parson

The night before his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr. returns to the Lorraine Motel after delivering his last impassioned speech. A mysterious maid delivers his room service, though she seems to have more on her agenda than a simple meal. As their conversation progresses, true intentions come to light in a story that proves that a person doesn't need to be superhuman to be a hero. Featuring Gavin Lawrence and Sola Thompson.

May 27 - June 26, Hill Theatre

An Improbable Fiction

By James DeVita

Directed by Tim Ocel

The world-premiere staging of James DeVita's new play, told largely in Shakespeare's own words. It's plague time, and Shakespeare's characters are out of sorts (and out of work). Several of our favorites reunite at The Boar's Head Inn to celebrate life, and ruminate on the state of the world. Featuring Tracy Michelle Arnold, Sarah Day, Chiké Johnson, Brian Mani, Melisa Pereyra and Ronald Román-Meléndez.

July 1 - August 7, Hill Theatre

Rough Crossing

By Tom Stoppard

From an original play by Ferenc Molnár

Directed by William Brown

Two established playwrights hoping to refresh their careers take their show on the road. Or, rather, on the high seas, along with their two established stars. The plan is to ride the wake of a brilliant young musician - who happens to be engaged to one of the aforementioned stars - who will compose their new musical. But when the writers and composer stumble across a tryst between the actors, they'll need to pull out all the stops to keep their young phenom from going overboard. A clever and hilarious comedy, originally slated for the 2020 season. Featuring Kelsey Brennan, David Daniel, Jamal James, Josh Krause, James Ridge and Marcus Truschinski.

June 25 - August 15, Touchstone Theatre

An Iliad

By Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare

Translated from Homer's Iliad by Robert Fagles

Directed by John Langs

In a reprise of the 2015 production, Homer's epic tale is distilled to one war-torn poet, as actor Jim DeVita takes us on a thrilling, wrenching tour of the Trojan War. The intimate Touchstone Theatre is an ideal space for this exploration of the contradictory conditions of glory and violence, and the human race's seemingly endless addiction to war. Featuring Jim DeVita and Alicia Storin.

August 12 - September 11, Hill Theatre


By William Shakespeare

Adapted by Henry Woronicz

Directed by Marti Lyons

When his daughter Imogen secretly marries Posthumus, a good man without financial means, King Cymbeline banishes Posthumus in a fury. In Rome, missing his wife and his home, Posthumus meets Iachimo, who plants a seed in his mind that Imogen will be unfaithful to him in his absence. In despair, Posthumus contacts his servant Pisanio with orders to murder Imogen, but the servant instead disguises her as a page and smuggles her out of court and off on a great Shakespearean adventure. Featuring: Tracy Michelle Arnold, Gina Daniels, Sarah Day, Alys Dickerson, Elizabeth Ledo, Colleen Madden, Melisa Pereyra and Lisa Tejero.

August 26 - October 3, Touchstone Theatre

A Phoenix Too Frequent

By Christopher Fry

Directed by Keira Fromm

In ancient Greece, Dynamene is prepared to die from grief over the death of her husband and has barricaded herself, fasting, in his tomb. She has brought her faithful servant along to die with her (a plan that said servant is not 100% on board with). But it's not long before Dynamene is distracted from her death wish by the arrival of a handsome soldier, Tegeus, providing a foil for her grief in this comedy about love and expectations. Originally slated for the 2020 season. Featuring Phoebe González, Tyler Meredith and Christopher Sheard.

September 19 - October 9, Hill Theatre


By Sophocles

Adapted & Directed by David Daniel

A plague has descended on Thebes, and the citizens insist that King Oedipus do something to save them. The king sends his brother, Creon, to an oracle to determine how to lift the sickness in their city, and he comes back with an answer (although an oracle's answer is seldom a simple thing): find the murderer of the previous King Laius, and when the killer is punished, the plague will lift. Oedipus sets out immediately to do so, and what he discovers spurs a reckoning that reverberates through the centuries. A Greek murder mystery that explores the many facets of human nature and relationships. Featuring Gavin Lawrence as Oedipus. Also featuring Jim DeVita, Marcus Truschinski, La Shawn Banks and Triney Sandoval.

October 14 - November 14, Touchstone Theatre

The Taming of the Shrew

By William Shakespeare

Adapted & Directed by Shana Cooper

In Padua, the wealthy Lucentio stumbles across a woman he immediately believes to be the love of his life. The problem is that said woman, Bianca, already has multiple suitors. And to complicate matters further, she will not be allowed to marry until after her sister, Katherine, has walked down the aisle herself. Kate is a bit of a wild card, though, and marriage is not on her mind. So Lucentio and Bianca rope in a gold digger, Petruchio, who agrees to pursue Kate. This infamous will-they-won't-they couple engages in the usual fray in a brand new way in this five-actor adaptation of the classic Shakespearean comedy. Featuring Alejandra Escalante and Daniel Molina as Kate and Petruchio. Also featuring James Ridge, Casey Hoekstra, and another actor to be named later.

About the Theatre

APT is a professional repertory theater devoted to the great and future classics. It was founded in 1979 and continues to be one of the most popular outdoor classical theaters in the nation.

The Theatre is located in Spring Green, Wis., on 110 acres of hilly woods and meadows above the Wisconsin River. The outdoor amphitheater is built within a natural hollow atop an oak-wooded hill. Under the dome of sky, 1,089 comfortably cushioned seats encircle three sides of the stage. In 2009, APT opened the 201-seat indoor Touchstone Theatre, offering a different type of play and experience.

APT cancelled the 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone in the organization is excited to be back to creating theater in 2021.

For more information, visit

For photos or interviews, please contact: Jess Amend, 608-588-9240,

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