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Patrick Page isn’t sure how, only that the pandemic will change us. “It will have to. I also think what we’ve been through over the past four years politically is going to change theater quite a lot,” says Page, who had been playing the title character in the Tony-winning musical Hadestown when Broadway went dark last March.
One aspect of contemporary life Page hopes to see altered is a level of divisiveness that he calls “toxic” and puts him in mind of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “The primary image in Hamlet is one of illness that spreads like a plague. If there’s something infected at the top, as King Claudius is, that rottenness, that infection, runs outward into society because it attracts sycophants, it attracts enablers, and it just spreads. Hopefully, we’ll get past all of that pretty soon. It might take a generation.”
Hamlet is just the tip of the spear, as it were, in terms of works by Shakespeare that have particular resonance today. In his latest stage production, All The Devils Are Here, Page draws a direct line from characters Shakespeare wrote over 400 years ago to many of those created in our time, with a particular focus on popular villains, including the Lady MacBeth-inspired Claire Underwood of House of Cards and Scar from The Lion King, modeled on Claudius from Hamlet. He also notes that the Bard was changed by a plague during his era in a way that contributed to him writing more nuanced and complex characters.
Page conceived of Devils as a kind of “detective story,” reviewing Shakespeare’s canon chronologically, “going from play to play, trying to see how the villains changed, if they did.” Originally planned for a full stage run at Shakespeare Theatre, the company instead released a filmed version.
Captured onstage in an empty Harman Hall, Page intersperses his insightful observations and contextual commentary with vivid, dramatic reenactments in character. He makes a compelling case in the kind of unforgettable way you wish your favorite history or drama teacher had done.
Page hopes to appeal to those who “maybe have seen one or two bad productions of Shakespeare too many and thought, ‘I just don’t get it.’ Or ‘It’s not for me.’ I could be their way back in. That’s my kind of missionary zeal on this.”
All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain is now available for streaming. Tickets for a 72-hour stream are $25. Visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.
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