Read Remark Book Review - If We Were Villains by ML Rio

Book Review: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published April 2017
Flatiron Books

One-sentence summary:
Shakespearean acting students enact their own tragedy on the real-life stage.

People passionate about their professions sometimes semi-consciously sprinkle bits of it into their own identities. Think about the pianist whose fingers start fluttering to the keys of a song playing on the radio. The tire technician who can spot a flat across a crowded parking lot. The language teacher who speaks in a mix of both English and Spanish.

The characters of If We Were Villains don’t just act Shakespeare. They ARE Shakespeare.

They sprinkle Shakespearean lines into every sentence, every situation, and conundrum. It’s wooooonderful!

As our characters find, Shakespeare was prolific that there’s a line for practically every situation:


“Out, damned spot! out, I say!” – Macbeth

At the ice cream store:

“Can one desire too much of a good thing?” – As You Like It

After my teen kid has visited the fridge:

“He hath eaten me out of house and home.” – King Henry IV

What I say to myself as I write these book reviews:

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Hamlet

Of course, the situations in If We Were Villains are a lot less mundane, and these burgeoning adults live life like a tragedy. They are full of passion, rage, beauty, vim, vigor, loyalty, and contempt.

This small group of actors is like a family who almost hate how much they love and need each other. Their protective bubble-like existence is of course bound to pop; each of the characters has too many sharp corners.

If you’re a literary nerd like me or have any experience with theatre life, you’ll swoon over some of these pages, and mourn the avoidable downfall of Oliver (I’m not spoiling anything here; the story is told in flashback from our main character after he has spent a decade in jail).

One of the acting exercises is most telling. Oliver’s partner tells him he’s all about the other person. He ceases to exist in the scene; bringing the other’s actions into high, almost oversaturated vibrance.

In this story, life imitates art imitates life.

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