Patrick Page Brings a Dirty Dozen Shakespeare Villains To The Stage

After playing the devil himself in 'Hadestown,' Page keeps it on the dark side with 'All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain'

Patrick Page in All The Devils Are Here. Julieta Cervantes

Being the Hades of Hadestown has had its perks for Patrick Page. With a baritone that booms and an imperious manner, Page lorded majestically over this evil underworld for quite a spell—from its New York Theater Workshop inception in 2016 to an Edmonton production in 2017 to a slot at London’s National in 2018 to, finally, Broadway’s Walter Kerr where the show opened in March of 2019 and is now in its fourth year. Along the way, Page picked up a Featured Actor nomination and Hadestown itself amassed eight Tonys.

“The longest I did it was on Broadway,” Page tells Observer. Although he was having one helluvah time there,  after six years in the role he opted to turn in his pitchfork in 2022 and head for greener pastures. That turned out to be Washington, DC, and a production of King Lear in the spring of 2023, helmed by Simon Godwin, the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater Company there. “I had the most marvelous time with him,” Page says—marvelous enough to broach another subject. 

With the SAG-Aftra strike having shut down TV and film production, Page turned his thoughts to a scary but scholarly masterclass in Shakespearean skullduggery, All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain, that he’d developed a few years before. And he got Godwin to direct it. All the Devils Are Here was first presented online in 2020 by the Shakespeare Theater Company. Now it’s at Off-Broadway’s DR2 Theater, through Feb. 25. 

Amber Gray, Patrick Page, and Reeve Carney (from left) in Hadestown. Matthew Murphy

His Hadestown fans, Page says, have indeed “been a wonderful part of the audience. A great many people who didn’t have a whole lot of appetite for Shakespeare before, perhaps, I thought might come because of the love of Hadestown, and they did just that. That’s a lot of what I had wanted to do with this show: to introduce people to Shakespeare, who had some sort of bad experience with him in high school or college, or were intimidated or afraid or, in some way, thought it wasn’t for them. I wanted All the Devils Are Here to be an invitation.”

There are some snippets where Page does a character in a few seconds, but, for the most part  he manages to evoke a very memorable (and very dirty) dozen, leading with Lady M’s spectacularly unhinged, gung-ho rant to her husband, Macbeth. Then come the Shakespearean men, with an assortment of motives to unpack, the  perverse parade includes Claudius who killed his brother to become king in Hamlet, Othello and Iago, Edmund from King Lear, Macbeth, and Prospero and Ariel from The Tempest. Plus a couple of equally maladjusted cases-in-point from Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Christopher Marlowe and Poet Laureate Ben Jonson.

“Actors,” says Page in defense of the villains he’s portraying, “are the opposite of psychopaths, and psychopathy is the opposite of empathy. Most actors have an excess of empathy. They feel very much what other people are feeling, imagine what they’re feeling. Narcissism is at the heart of both conditions.”

Regarding the variety of motives afoot, Page says, “I try to touch on those. But I also try to leave room for the text to explicate—just let Shakespeare do as much of the work as he can. I try to give some insights, and then I give the audience as much information as they may need—if they haven’t seen the play—to follow along with the scene.”

It takes Page some 90 minutes to run this Shakespearean gamut. He takes his bow and promises the audience he’ll return for a talkback. No kidding. “I do it after every show,” he says. “I thought maybe a few people would stay, but what we found is that virtually the entire audience stays. It’s like they want to learn more.”

To be sure, given the Shakespearean quote marks, there’s a lot of emotional heavy-sledding going on here, but Page can shatter a mood he’s created and bring us back to a happy reality with an easy smile. He can also show us how Shakespeare is alive and well and reverberating in today’s theater and TV. The saga of Succession’s Roy family isn’t that different from the sibling warfare in King Lear. And the fratricidal impulse governing The Lion King’s Scar is comparable to Hamlet’s murderous Uncle Claudius.

Scar is one of several villains that Page has played for Broadway. Others include the never-popular Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the even leaner and meaner supervillain Green Goblin who created such dangerous mischief for Reeve Carney during Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (Carney gamely went back for seconds with Page to play Orpheus in Hadestown.)

Morgan Spector (center) and Patrick Page in The Gilded Age. Barbara Nitke/HBO

Don’t look now—or rather do look now: Page is spreading some mean-spirited Shakespearean deportment in the HBO series, The Gilded Age, playing blackhearted businessman Richard Clay, who has absolutely no qualms about the police gunning down his protesting factory workers.

Some 60 name-brand Broadway stars are sprinkled over the HBO drama. “Oh, it’s absolute heaven,” Page reports. “It was literally a godsend when that show came along at the moment we all had no theater work. There we were, all these theater actors and none of us had a scrap of work for the foreseeable future. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, here’s this marvelous TV show that all of us can be part of and have a sort of repertory company. Oh, it’s just such a blessing.”

Series aside, Page is not sure what his next professional move will be.  He and Godwin have been huddling over The Winter’s Tale, and another director and he are looking at Titus Andronicus. “I have done 26 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays.” Page says. “And I’d like to do them all!”

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Patrick Page Brings a Dirty Dozen Shakespeare Villains To The Stage