As playwright Martin McDonagh states in The Pillowman: the first duty of a storyteller is to tell a story. In fact, there are a lot of stories told in The Pillowman. Much as Grimm’s Fairy tales are really grim, this play may give you nightmares.
Katurian Katurian and his brain-damaged brother have been arrested and are being held for questioning concerning the murder and disappearance of children. In each case the circumstances of the crimes imitate the gruesome stories written by Katurian. So we hear these stories (and watch them reenacted) and we learn of Katurian’s life. He didn’t wake up one day writing horror – it evolved – much as the play evolves.The play opens at the police station where Katurian is being questioned by a good cop and a bad cop and goes back in time to his childhood. In the process we learn that everyone has his own story and each one draws you deeper into the mystery of The Pillowman. Many of these stories are macabre and reminiscent of old Twilight Zone episodes. But McDonagh has a bigger agenda than just horrifying an audience. He asks us to consider a storyteller’s responsibility — who controls these stories after he dies and if the government has the right to censor a writer’s works. Heady ideas for a story that is grisly and deranged.
The Seeing Place, an ensemble of actors and directors who all wear multiple hats, are clearly invested in what they do. They work on a shoestring budget in a small theater in Kips Bay. This production of The Pillowman is nuanced and disturbing and probably just what Martin McDonagh intended. LAR
The Seeing Place, Clarion Theater, 309 E 26th Street
Ticket prices: $15
Discounts: Available at times through seat filler companies
Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes including a 15 minute intermission
Runs thru: December 20, 2015