I feel that a part of my theatrical education has been completed now that I’ve seen – for the first time - a production of The Pillowman. Though I’ve certainly been hearing about it for years, and even know some friends who’ve done versions of the play, and knew Jeff Goldblum was in the original Broadway cast, it wasn’t until yesterday’s 3pm matinee at Redtwist I’d never read or seen this thrilling piece of theatre.
I’d also never set foot in Redtwist theatre before, and I feel like I may have been missing out. This is an exciting company.
The story is this: Katurian, a writer, is being interrogated by two policemen – Tupolski and Ariel – regarding the similarities between the short stories he’s written and the deaths of small children. Katurian maintains his innocence, though the policemen are quite clear he’s going to be executed soon, and so he fights for the preservation of his stories. In the next room, the policemen are detaining Katurian’s brother, Michal. Over the course of 2.5 hours, your perceptions of what happened are twisted several times and gruesome but surprising details emerge. McDonagh keeps his writing brisk and conversational, and there’s never an overwrought moment or a dull section.
Cheers to director Kimberly Senior and the Redtwist theatre folks for choosing to bring a piece this bold to their stage, for delivering such a fantastic production, and for utilizing their small space in such an intense way. The main portion of the play happens in an interrogation room, and Senior’s staging puts the action literally within reach of the audience. (I had to move my feet to make sure I didn’t kick an actor in the head during a moment of brawling on the floor.) Framing the play are story-scenes, and those happen in two areas to either side of the room, which keeps you wondering whats going to happen next and where it’s coming from.
Also, applause must be given to this hard-working cast. Andrew Jessop might be a tad too young to play Katurian, but his performance is riveting and emotional. Though you’re never 100% sure if he did or didn’t do it until the very end, he’s charsmatic and you care about him. As Michael, probably the show’s most challenging role, Peter Oyloe resembles James Franco and turns in an astonishing performance. Both of these actors are worth keeping an eye on. Tom Hickey and Johnny Garcia are the good cop and bad cop in charge of Katurian’s investigation, and both are clearly having a great time playing their roles. Hickey in particular is a scene-stealer, especially in the second act when he weaves his own story about a deaf Chinese boy and an oncoming train.
I must also point out the excellent work of Christoper Kriz, credited with Original Music and Sound Design. Kriz keeps an eerie drone underscoring the entire show, whether it’s just a water drip or a soft hum coming from somewhere undetermined, and the effect is very unsettling.
If you’ve never seen The Pillowman, you’re missing out. Redtwist’s production is excellent, and I’d go see it again.
(Also FYI – Redtwist will be presenting Misery in June/July 2010. Yes, the Stephen King Misery. I’m absolutely there.)