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BWW Review: Patrick Page Explores Shakespeare's Best Villains, Gives Audiences An Acting Masterclass

Shakespeare Theatre Company's "All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain" endears us to the idea of evil, and exposes how it lurks in everyone.

BWW Review: Patrick Page Explores Shakespeare's Best Villains, Gives Audiences An Acting Masterclass

In 2021, evil lurks in crowded grocery stores, on unmasked faces or on Facebook. So what would today's audience want with a tale about villainy?

Shakespeare Theatre Company's All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain finds the answer to those questions in its exploration of Shakespeare's best villains -- Iago, Claudius, Malvolio, MacBeth and more. Written and performed by Tony nominee Patrick Page, lovingly nicknamed "The Villain of Broadway," in just 80 minutes this one-man show humanizes cruelty and endears us to the evil that lurks in everyone.

Page expertly weaves scenes from Shakespeare's best works -- MacBeth, Hamlet, Richard III, Henry VI -- with asides on Shakespeares's writing style and life in his era. At times, Page is a kindly docent, possessed of charisma and wry, nerdy charm as he offers audiences fun facts. Then he is an actor's actor, nailing a traumatizing MacBeth or a despairing Claudius like it was never hard. If the work, streaming now, sounds like it's meant for a Shakespeare superfan, it is. But even those who've never even heard the name Juliet will be entertained.

BWW Review: Patrick Page Explores Shakespeare's Best Villains, Gives Audiences An Acting Masterclass When it comes to expertise in craft, Page is the mountaintop. Watching him shift in and out of character is like watching a chameleon walk across a rainbow. He is an actor who does what few actors do well: He entertains as just himself. As he tells a bit of chinwag from Richard III about how the character's originating actor had fangirls, he is delightful. The connections he draws for audiences between House of Cards' Frank Underwood or The Lion King's Scar and Shakespeare's duke of Gloucester and Claudius, respectively, are something to tell at parties.

But as fun as this work is, it never drifts too far from "these unprecedented times." As Page reminds audiences, plague shuttered theaters during Shakespeare's time much like the coronavirus has done today. Page performs to an empty house as cameras cut and circle and twist and tighten on him to bring this to quarantine audiences. In normal times, it is difficult to film a stage production and difficult to act for a camera. It is near impossible to make it appear as if both are intentional. Page does it. When he stalks toward the camera, forcing it to reel back and circle with him it is better than being there. The sadness of watching from a couch abates, if only for a while.

In the Shakespeare Theatre's Sidney Harman Hall, Page fills this massive space with talent, not stuff. Rather than hide props around the set, Page transforms himself with a single overcoat and a pair of statement glasses. Chris Young gives the stage a streamlined look while the lighting that makes Shakespeare so dramatic still manages to come across on screens no larger than an iPad.

By the time the credits roll, Page has introduced audiences to characters who are racist, heretical, shallow, avaricious, sociopathic and manipulative. They are also tormented, despairing, lonely, misunderstood and ignorant. Shakespeare is credited with creating the original villain, but Page suggests that what he really did was hold up a mirror to human nature and ask audiences to look.

Tickets to access the streaming link for All the Devils Are Here are $25. The streaming link is available for 72 hours after purchase. If you wish to view the performance at a later date, please wait until you are ready to watch to make your purchase.

All the Devils Are Here is a component of Shakespeare Everywhere, which is made possible by the visionary support of the Beech Street Foundation.

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