|'The Pillowman' puts 'black' in 'comedy'|
|Written by Marcia Fulmer|
|Monday, 18 October 2010 13:57|
"The Pillowman" by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, currently on stage at Goshen's New World Arts, is described as a "black comedy." It is more "black" than "comedy" but there are laughs, even if one feels guilty about them. Trying to decide McDonagh's "theme" can take all of the play's two hours and 45 minutes (including intermission) — and even then it's individual rather than general perception and most accurately described by one of the characters as "a puzzle without a solution."
On first glance — actually on every glance — it doesn't look like a comedy. The stage is black, with three metal folding chairs, a filing cabinet, a desk and a single light hanging overhead. Into the room come two detectives and one prisoner. This is a totalitarian state and the prisoner Katurian (Matthew Bell) has no idea of what crime he is charged. His interrogators Topolski (Brian Kozlowski) and Ariel (Jenna Grubaugh) play "good cop, bad cop," and their questioning centers on Katurian's stories dealing with violence against young children which have been copied in recent child murders in their town. Katurian insists on his innocence but changes his story when he believes that his retarded brother Michal (Michael Kennel) is bring tortured in the next room and has confessed and implicated Katurian. The brothers are brought together and recall their horribly unequal childhood out of which grew the writer's grisly narratives (including one from which the play takes its title) and his obsession with keeping children safe from the pains of older life. The focus shifts between the emotions and relationships of the brothers and the detectives as the stories of Katurian are read and the facts of their childhood are assembled, disected and reassembled. One thing is clear, nothing is more important to the writer than the preservation of his stories, whatever the cost. The cast of this "Pillowman" handle their characters as well as can be expected in such a dark and multi-layered tale. Kozlowski earns most of the laughs, creating a benign facade which covers a ruthless interior. Bell's writer is articulate but frequently too detached. Grubaugh has the assignment of creating a character written for a man. Despite her resemblance to Hilary Swank, it doesn't always ring true. Kennel is properly bumbling but it is difficult to believe he is Bell's brother. Bell is obviously British and Kennell, obviously not. The accent, or lack thereof, was difficult to ignore. Not so the incidental "music" before and after the show and at intermission. Could not decide if it was wounded whale song or grinding girders. Meant to set the tone of the play it was more loud than ominous. That said, it was an evening well-spent and I congratulate NWA and director Laura Gouin for continuing to present shows that are off the beaten path for civic groups. Certainly "The Pillowman" will not be popping up in the seasons of any other nearby community group. This is an opportunity to see a play by a writer unanimously heralded as one of the best of the modern playwrights. I urge you to take advantage of it — just leave the children at home!
"THE PILLOWMAN" will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Oct. 29-30 in the theater at 211 S. Main St. in Goshen. Entrance and parking off Third Street. Tickets at the door.