Patrick Page Mines Shakespeare’s Dark Side: “All the Devils Are Here”

Most actors will tell you they would rather play the villain than the hero. The bad guys are often more complex, sometimes amusingly so, and they dominate their scenes. The appeal may be inborn. My friend’s twelve-year-old granddaughter coveted the role of Captain Hook in her middle school’s “Peter Pan.” (She was cast as a Pirate, which still beats being one of the Lost Boys.) In “All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain,” created and performed by Patrick Page, the actor explains and enacts sequences from Shakespeare’s stable of nefarious characters.

Dubbed by Playbill ‘The Villain of Broadway,’ based on his turns in “Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark” as Green Goblin, “Hadestown” (Hades), “The Lion King” (Scar) and others, Page is no stranger to the dark side. At the Shakespeare Theater Company in D. C. alone, he has played Iago, Claudius and Macbeth.  Qualified to guide us through a clutch of Shakespeare’s baddies? I guess so!

Patrick Page in “All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain” [Photos: Julieta Cervantes]

Despite “All the Devils…” sub-title, Shakespeare did not literally invent the villain, but as Page illustrates in his mesmerizing solo show, The Bard re-imagined theatrical villainy, humanizing what had been two-dimensional portrayals (masks indicating Gluttony or Greed, for example).

Identifying Shakespeare’s villains in the order of their creation, from Richard III’s debut in “Henry VI: Part III,” written in 1591, to Prospero in “The Tempest” (1611), Page illuminates the motivations for the evil doings of those two and of an inglorious handful in between. Richard III, Page explains, was born to be bad and knew it (“…counting myself but bad till be best”), while Prospero, bringing forbidden dark magic into play, exemplifies the common theme of revenge. Smoothly directed by Simon Godwin, the segments unfold with apparent ease.

“Hamlet” is the supreme “revenge tragedy,” wherein Claudius, acknowledging his fratricide, seeks absolution in a prayerful speech that Page recites to chilling effect: “O, my offense is rank…a brother’s murder.”

Iago, the very personification of villainy, gets his moment in a gripping segment with Page voicing both him and the duped Othello in the “…jealousy is the green-eyed monster” scene. The excerpt highlights Page’s sonorous vocal dexterity, about which anyone who saw Page in “Spider-Man” or “Hadestown” needs no reminders.

Prospero, Malvolio and Shylock are not your standard issue villains (not a cold-blooded murder among them), but Page exposes their dark sides and motivations: Prospero’s revenge for having been set adrift with his toddler daughter in a leaking boat; Shylock facing down pervasive antisemitism; and Malvolio’s absurd vision of his own grandeur. (Page’s reading of Malvolio’s forged love letter has never been funnier.)

Brief as it is or, more accurately, compact, “All the Devils” has much to offer students, teachers, and fans of Shakespeare. My professor at UPenn said that Shakespeare “knew everything about everything.” Based on Shylock’s excerpted “…if you wrong us [Jews], shall we not revenge?” and Page’s checklist of the traits of a psychopathic chief executive, referring to Richard and, obliquely, to our orange-haired one, Shakespeare indeed knew everything – four hundred years in advance!

Through January 7 at DR2 Theatre, 103 East 15th Street, NYC. Schedule info and tickets: 212-239-6200 or

A personal note: This is my first posted review since last February, when I was diagnosed with lymphoma. After stints in hospital and a re-hab facility and a series of chemotherapy infusions, I am once again able to attend theater – and to write about it. What the future holds is unknown (except perhaps to Shakespeare), but meanwhile, it is good to be back.