The dramatic canon of William Shakespeare is unsurpassed for its universal themes and insights into the minds, motivations, and human nature of its complex three-dimensional characters, both heroic and villainous. In his solo show All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain, playing a limited Off-Broadway engagement at DR2 Theatre, creator and performer Patrick Page – a Tony nominee and Grammy winner (for his portrayal of Hades in Hadestown) and an associate artist of The Old Globe in San Diego and the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) in Washington, DC (where he’s played such iconic roles as Malvolio, King Lear, Coriolanus, Prospero, Macbeth, Iago, and Claudius) – examines the concept of evil and its evolution in the works of The Bard, as he analyzes and embodies a series of his iconic malfeasants in a tour-de-force performance and masterclass on the theme of wickedness that entertains and illuminates.
Under the intense non-stop direction of Simon Godwin (who serves as Associate Director of the STC), Page transforms from one character to the next, performing their most famous and revealing soliloquies and dialogues, capturing their sometimes hidden, sometimes raging emotions and diabolical mindsets in his rich and resonant voice, while actively moving around the stage with purpose and conviction. The actor’s consummately delivered words, rhythms, and intent of Shakespeare are interspersed with his own considered, meaningful, and often humorous direct-address commentary, which elucidates the chronological development of the playwright’s, and Page’s, deepening understanding of human psychology and psychopathy, the how and the why of the villains’ vengeful and maleficent actions, and the historical factors of Shakespeare’s life and times (including the works of Christopher Marlowe) that impacted his writing and its reception then, and our perceptions of the master now.
Page’s interpretations – opening with a monologue imploring the spirits and conveying the murderous madness of Lady Macbeth (Act I, Scene 5: “. . . unsex me here/And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full/Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood/Stop up the access and passage to remorse”) – range from dark and dangerous, as with Aaron the Moor from Titus Andronicus and the eponymous Richard III, to duplicitous and scheming, represented by Hamlet’s Claudius and Iago in Othello, to sensitive and empathetic, seen in the wronged Shylock from The Merchant of Venice, to Twelfth Night‘s laughably narcissistic, disagreeable, and authoritarian Malvolio, a name that, Page reminds us, means “ill will” in Italian. He closes with the change in Prospero’s attitude from vindictive anger to forgiveness, in what is believed to be one of Shakespeare’s last works of ca. 1610-11, The Tempest, from which the title of the current show is taken – “Hell is empty/And all the devils are here” (Act I, Scene 2) – as Page tellingly touches his heart while speaking the line.
The brilliant performance and exegeses are accompanied by an effectively concentrated artistic design that enhances the moods and reinforces the identities of the characters, without delaying or detracting from Page. Arnulfo Maldonado’s simple set consists of sparse tables and chairs on a mostly bare stage, backed by a blood red curtain and flanked by rows of spotlight poles with small shelves to hold the familiar props (a book, a skull, a wooden rod) and minimal changes of Emily Rebholz’s distinguishing costume accessories (e.g., the black kippah worn by Shylock). And evocative lighting by Stacey Derosier and a soundscape by Darron L West augment the elements of danger, terror, and creepiness inherent in the minds and deeds of Shakespeare’s villains.
Whether you’re a devoted expert or fan of Shakespeare, a novice who wants to learn more about his characters and development, a theater-lover who relishes award-worthy performances by one of the finest actors of the stage, or anyone else looking for the best theater has to offer, Patrick Page’s All the Devils Are Here is a must-see production.
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, without intermission.
All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain plays through February 25, 2024, at the DR2 Theatre, 103 East 15th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $110-160, including fees), call (212) 239-6200, or go online.