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Culture » Theater

Not Soft and Fluffy

Not for the faint of heart, The Pillowman is dark, but weirdly hopeful



If it isn't your cup of tea to walk out of the theater questioning whether there is any good left in the world, then, well, The Pillowman probably isn't for you.

A dark comedy-drama written by Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges), the play is even creepier than its title implies. The story watches the arrest and downward spiral of writer Katurian Katurian (played by Volcanic Theatre owner Derek Sitter), his twisted dark stories and his handicapped brother Michal (Don Tompos).

The play begins in an interrogation room, where devout writer Katurian is under a vague investigation involving his violent storytelling that often includes child cruelty and abuse. As he is interrogated, it is revealed that his mentally challenged brother Michal has been cajoled into a confession to the murders of young children that mimetically resemble Kiturian's stories. Without revealing too much, Katurian resolves himself to his own execution while still trying to save his beloved stories for posterity.

"It's McDonagh looking in the mirror questioning himself saying, this is what comes out of my mind and is there something wrong with that?" said Sitter. "Is there anything more wrong with it than Edgar Allen Poe? Tarantino?"

The bad cop-worse cop dynamic between arresting detectives Ariel and Tupolski (Wayne Newcome and Gavin Douglas) leads to chaotic outbursts. The physicality with which Douglas plays Detective Ariel is destructive and furious.

"It's really intense," said Douglas. "I had to cross a personal barrier. As someone who has done a lot of stage combat choreography, there's no room [in The Pillowman] for fake kicks."

The tact of Tompos' depiction of Michal, played with a childlike innocence stuck in a grown man's body, is simultaneously charming and sinister.

It's quite horrifying, really. Moving, awkwardly funny, uncomfortably laughable, and always dark, the committed acting truly reveals a humanistic quality to the deeply disturbing storyline.

"It's about artistic expression and freedom of speech. If you watch a violent movie do you go out and do violent things? It's that argument," said Newcome. "It makes you want to laugh in all the wrong places because it's so dark, but it's so funny at the same time."

The Pillowman

7:30 pm. Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 16-18 & 23-25.

Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.

$15. Tickets availible at

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