All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented

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Photo: Julieta Cervantes Review
Without a question, Patrick Page’s new solo outing “All the Devis are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain,” now at the DR2, sounds very much like a semester-long college course. Or at least a serious, lengthy lecture. Well, here’s the first good bit of very good news: the show is barely 90 minutes long – and feels like it flies by in about 10 minutes because of how enraptured you will be.

Still, this cleverly crafted “monologue,” expertly directed by Simon Godwin, throws in just enough historical background, tidbits about Will’s life, and, most importantly, insights into why Shakespeare not only included so many “villains” in his pieces – as well as how they evolved over his 20-year career -- that the show earns its academic subtitle.

Even better, though, Page makes his commentary anything but “academic,” occasionally joking lightly with the audience, making apropos references to pop culture from “Star Trek” to “Star Wars” to, yep, “The Lion King,” and warning us, without truly scaring us, that there might be a psychopath sitting next to you. Indeed, much of the work revolves around the question of whether people (and specifically some of Shakespeare’s “villains”) are inherently evil – something foremost in many of our minds during these troubled times.

Still, as one might imagine, the play is the thing here – or specifically, the numerous monologues and dialogues Park has chosen to illustrate his points. What he does with these words is magical, but without using any of Prospero’s spells – or much of anything else. Indeed, he utilizes just a few props from Arnulfo Maldonado’s simple but attractive set, and his “costume changes” are nothing more than donning and doffing the upper layers of Emily Rebholz’s wardrobe of vests and shirts.

Instead, the magic is not only Page’s uncanny ability to switch voices in an instant – in one scene, he sounds like both Othello and Iago, with neither sounding anything like the other one, but, even more importantly, the intelligence and forethought he puts into each characterization. For example, I’ve seen my fair share of Iagos, most outrightly sinister, obviously envious, or even slightly insane. Page’s is a soft-spoken everyman, making his treacherous accusations against Othello’s wife, Desdemona, and loyal friend Cassio sound heartfelt, reasonable, and easily believable – which is the key to making that play work.

Indeed, his takes on many of Shakespeare’s best-known characters feel fresh. His Malvolio – the lovestruck, haughty servant of “Twelfth Night” – comes off as appropriately foolish and pompous, but not insufferable. He presents an utterly compelling take on the Jewish moneylender Shylock (who Shakespeare did intend to be the villain of “The Merchant of Venice”) as a man who knows what the world thinks of him and responds with the appropriate mixture of hurt and outrage. His Claudius (from “Hamlet”) really does appear to be a man of (momentary) conscience, making us understand why the Prince of Denmark hesitated to murder his unctuous uncle.

Both his Lady Macbeth and her husband – who bookend the show -- are clearly undone by their ambition and propped on by outside forces, while he shows us how Richard III, Edgar (from “King Lear”), and, yes, Prospero are all motivated by revenge, but also how their final acts and words in their plays are very different. All do evil deeds, but Page “proves” none are inherently evil.

Indeed, the result of “All the Devils Are Here” can be summarized by the reaction of my companion for the evening, a self-admitted non-Shakespeare lover who now wants to see Page flex his acting muscles (and, probably, his actual muscles) in a full production of one of the Bard’s works. I’m not sure I can think of any better compliment – or audience reaction -- than this one.

By Brian Scott Lipton

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Patrick Page

Open/Close Dates
Opening 10/16/2023
Closing 3/31/2024

Theatre Info
DR2 Theatre
103 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003