This past weekend, VegSOUP presented Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman in Brodie's Black Box Theatre. The Pillowman is an outside-the-box black comedy which won the Olivier Award in 2004 for Best New Play. While anyone who has dabbled in theater knows that it takes many elements and many hands to make a production a success, it seemed that The Pillowman had them, both in skill and in abundance, for this play was nothing short of spectacular.
The product of a truly messed-up childhood, Katurian Katurian grows up writing short stories inspired by his demented upbringing. When brought in for a brutal interrogation in a police station, it's news to Katurian that his outlandish short stories closely relate to recent crimes in which several young children have been found tortured and murdered. From here, the plot takes many twists and turns; it's ultimately composed of many layers of fascinatingly disturbing stories all told from Katurian's point of view.
Katurian, played by sophomore Sean Miller, establishes the play almost immediately, saying, "The first duty of a storyteller is to tell a story." Miller, who displayed himself as the ultimate storyteller, played a spot-on Katurian by being both entertaining as well as chillingly disturbed. His shrill screams as he's being brutalized by an interrogator and the tremble in his voice as he prepares to smother his brother were convincing to the point of being downright scary. All the while, Miller kept the audience laughing with his well-intentioned know-it-all-ism.
This is the way much of the performance was played out. While the play itself had cohesion, the audience reaction certainly did not. During the play, half the audience gaped, open-mouthed and horrified, while at the same time, the other half of the audience held their bellies they were laughing so hard. You could see those who weren't doing either were extremely torn between the two. Never before have I witnessed an emotional impact of a performance being so apparent.
Words do no justice to the great performance of all the actors. While jabs are made in the program at the ego of senior Dan Fenaughty, I believe that its inflation may be well deserved. I remain completely in awe of his acting ability as The Pillowman's dubiously good cop, Tupolski. His dapper look and über masculine, buttery voice mimic those iconic actors of the '50s.
I was also wholly impressed with sophomore Jack Frederick, who played Michal, Katurian's mentally disabled brother. Michal was played with such perfect comedic timing and conviction that I couldn't decide whether I wanted to hug him or run far away. Truly, every actor deserves infinite rounds of applause. Even the puppeteers were great, hovering over their child puppets like shrouded, faceless death.
The Pillowman was beautifully written, impeccably directed, and acted out in a way that was absolutely haunting. I will honestly say that The Pillowman is the most well-done play I've been lucky enough to see. Encore!