By Martin McDonagh
Directed by Kimberly Senior
At Redtwist Theatre
Searing thriller is filled with pitch-black humor and terrifying storytelling makes The Pillowman riveting theatre!
Under talented director Kimberly Senior and sporting a top list of actors, Redtwist Theatre’s production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman becomes one of the finest, most intense black comedy to appear on a storefront stage in many years. This Pillowman works much better than the 2006 production that got lost on the large Steppenwolf theatre main stage.
Director Senior and her production staff cleverly used every inch of the intimate Redtwist storefront theatre. In this production, the audience members are like flies on the wall as they are inches from the action. This adds to the intensity of the show.
The Pillowman is a departure for Irish playwright Martin McDonagh as it isn’t an Irish drama. But is sure contains McDonagh’s sense of pitch-black sick humor as he depicts two tough detectives from an Eastern European totalitarian state. The Pillowman is the story about a short story fiction writer who is accused of perpetrating the very acts he depicts in his murderous stories. The early scenes effectively build the mystery and the dramatic tension as Katurian (Andrew Jessop) and Tupolski (Tom Hickey)-the good cop and Ariel (Johnny Garcia)-the bad cop takes turns interrogating Katurian, the writer.
The Pillowman is filled with a series of wonderfully presented storytelling (mostly presented by Andrew Jessop as Kuturian) that were creatively staged in this production. The terror builds once we learn that three murders actually happened almost exactly like those in Katurian’s stories. Once we meet Katurian’s simple-minded brother Michal (Peter Oyloe in a winningly eerie performance) we experience how effective stories can influence behavior. Is life imitating art?
Without giving away too much, let me say that both Katurian and Michal’s bringing up gave Katurian’s imagination fuel for his stories. McDonagh weaves the plot with haunting past life experiences from the cops as well as the writer and his brother. We see and hear about severed fingers and toes, a little girl with a Jesus complex, a child buried alive as well as we witness police torture. Violence permeates the action.
The Pillowman grabs us and keeps us on the edge of our seats throughout. With swift pacing and tight direction, this production features fabulous articulation from the entire cast that extracts all the black humor and all the irony and nuanced meanings. Andrew Jessop as the writer, Katurian, anchors the play. Jessop nicely lands his monologues and his verbalizing of his stories with effective articulation. This is a breakthrough performance for Jessop. His acting skills shine in this show.
Tom Hickey uses his wry sense of humor most effectively as the ‘good cop’ Tupolski. Hickey and Jessop have several wonderful scenes as the two interrogate each other. I was also impressed with Jessop in the pivotal scenes as he and his brother Michal talk about being jailed. Peter Oyloe was terrific as the simple-minded brother who was most affected by his brother’s writings. Oyloe and Jessop had powerful chemistry. Oyloe cherishes playing misfits.
The Pillowman moves into a hysterical edge of creepy storytelling theatre ripe with despair, child abuse and doom. The Redtwist Theatre production is riveting, shocking and thrilling. Tom Hickey, Peter Oyloe, and Andrew Jessop were outstanding. The Pillowman proves that Chicago storefront theatre is red hot!
At Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL