Courtesy of Julieta Cervantes

Actor Patrick Page graced the stage of UC Santa Barbara’s Hatlen Theater on April 25 with a performance of his solo show, “All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain,” followed by a Q&A with audience members. As a guest artist participating in the Michael Douglas Foundation Visiting Artist Program hosted by the Department of Theater and Dance, he additionally held several Q&As and workshops with students throughout the week.

This time, Page, notorious for his phenomenal performance in villainous roles from Hades in “Hadestown” to Scar in “The Lion King,” embodies multiple villains within the span of his 90-minute one-man show. He opens with a series of dramatic strikes on the ground, a stafflike prop in his hand. Impersonating Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” he sets a suspenseful mood for the remainder of the evening, reciting the scene where she attempts to invoke spirits. Page soon breaks character to signal his transition to the narrator of his show. He explains that he will showcase the chronological evolution of villains in Shakespeare’s work in accordance to the developments that occurred in the playwright’s life.

Watching Page bounce back and forth between the contextual narrator and Shakespearan villain is nothing short of mesmerizing. At one moment, he sprouts jokes and quips about Shakespeare’s professional rivalry, the next he’s briskly crossing the stage for an outfit change into Shylock from “The Merchant of Venice.” Despite being the only actor, Page makes total use of the stage and his commanding presence seemingly closes the gap between stage and audience — a testament to his decades-long veteran experience.

As Page takes the audience by storm through the worlds of “Othello,” “The Tempest” and some of Shakespeare’s other most infamous works, he increasingly centers on the humanity of these antagonists. He points out in his post-show Q&A that sure, Shylock is the villain of “The Merchant of Venice,” but in crafting Shylock, Shakespeare includes how much Shylock loves his wife, how he’s been spat on and how his business was ruined by Antonio, another main character. With this added layer of depth to a villain, Page remarks of Shakespeare, “He’s challenging our instincts with reality. That’s a human being.” He elaborates that growing up with Shakespeare has shaped the way he plays villainous roles. “One becomes accustomed, trained, to really look for the characters’ humanity, no matter how dark the character and finding their point of view.”

In his Q&A, Page goes on to explain his love for Shakespeare. He touches on his solo pieces inspired by Shakespeare’s works that he created in his 20s. “It was because I needed to be in conversation with Shakespeare. I wasn’t getting enough Shakespeare in my day-to-day life. Because Shakespeare, for me, offers me meaning,” said Page.

As for his fascination regarding the role of the villain, Page shared, “I’m curious about human behavior … I’m curious, deeply curious about why people do the things they do.” With his self-produced show, Page combines his inner Shakespeare aficionado and expertise in playing villains to portray the push and pull between evil and humanity at the core of these antagonists, leaving us food for thought if we’re really so different from these villains after all.