On Playing the Villain with Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly shares his thoughts on being the bad guy in our production of Measure for Measure.
Angelo is the kind of guy who tells the management that you’re saving seats in a movie theater, but then it turns out he’s doing the same thing.
Structurally, Angelo is certainly the villain, even described as an “arch” villain by Isabella but he only admits the fact in a couple moments. In his own words “when once our grace we have forgot/nothing goes right” and Angelo literally thinks he has only deviated once from an otherwise angelic life. Looking at Angelo this way is very useful because it opens up a twisted lightness to play instead of only mustache twirling villainy.
But how redeemable is Angelo? How justifiable are his feelings and actions? And, key to playing a character, how much is Angelo similar to you or me? There’s a specific line at the end of the show where Angelo claims that the primary reason he broke off his engagement to the unlucky Mariana wasn’t financial but “for that her reputation was disvalued in levity.” Now, it’s unclear at this point whether Angelo is being honest or trying to muddy Mariana’s reputation but if he is telling the truth then Angelo is somewhat tragic. His sexual hypocrisy and prudish persecutions fixate on virtue and target the lusty unmarried because he carries the pain of his broken engagement.
My key to playing Angelo is to limit the time I consider him a villain to as few lines as possible, and I try to do so because Angelo does the same, but it is important to remember that Angelo is unquestionably a villain. He sexually assaults a nun in most hypocritical fashion. He tries to then put her brother death. He lies. He’s deceitful. However, his mask of civility is developed and studied, to the point where he believes in his own saintliness.
So, when you see the play look for things in Angelo that you feel are normal. His story has a lot to empathize with. Hopefully, doing so will make those moments when Angelo makes a choice you or I would not all the more impactful.