How Shakespeare Invented the Villain
By: Paulanne Simmons
December 4, 2023: When it comes to evil, no one understood it better than the incomparable William Shakespeare. In his solo show, All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain, Patrick Page guides the audience on a journey of exploration and explanation. At the end, we may not entirely understand the nature of evil, but we certainly can identify and recognize extraordinary acting.
Page takes us from Shakespeare’s earliest experiment with evil in Titus Andronicus to his last achievement, the dark comedy, The Tempest. He distinguishes the incarnate evil of Iago from the encroaching evil of Macbeth or the comedic nastiness of Malvolio. But most of all Page delivers monologues that take our breath away.
Thankfully, for Shakespeare, evil is complicated. Was Shylock evil when he asked for a pound of flesh, considering how he had been mistreated all his life by Christians? Is Ariel evil at all?
Page illuminates not only Shakespeare’s villains but also their creator. The son of a prosperous businessman and town alderman, the playwright set out at an early age to make his mark. It wasn’t until he met the dark lady that his genius took flight. But he always remained competitive in love and practical in financial matters.
Page occasionally teases the audience, reminding us that evil still lurks everywhere, and making timely references to pop culture. His explanation of the Hebraic roots of Leonard Nemoy’s Vulcan salute, “Live long and prosper,” with its famous hand gesture will be fascinating for those not already in the know.
Director Simon Godwin has wisely chosen a minimal set for this production. For props Page has little more than a sword, a staff and a stool. The lighting by Stacey Derosier and sound by Darron L. West do the rest, creating ominous noise and frightening shadows.
All the Devils Are Here is a master class on Shakespeare. But it is not delivered by an academic referencing notecards. It is offered by an actor who makes evil incarnate as these characters come to life onstage.
All the Devils Are Here *****
How Shakespeare Invented The Villain
Daryl Roth Theatre
103 East 15th St. between Irving Pl. & Park Ave.
Tuesday – Sunday through February 25, 2023 $110-$160
Photography: Julieta Cervantes