Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Pillowman

Martin McDonagh
New Phoenix Theatre Company
The New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, Buffalo, New York, USA

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Our former Edinburgh reviewer, Rachel Lynn Brody, has moved back to the United States and is now giving us the occasional taste of US regional theatre.

With a total run time of about three hours (including an interval) and its harrowing subject matter, it would be easy for the New Phoenix's presentation of The Pillowman to become an endurance experience on the part of its audience. But under the direction of Robert Waterhouse, the production moves along apace with McDonagh's chilling tale of a writer whose macabre creations hold sway over the imaginations - and actions - of others.

Peter Jaskowiak holds centre stage as Katurian, full of nervous energy. His agile confrontations with interrogators Tupolski (Jeffrey Coyle, playing Good-Cop-By-Way-Of-a-Matrix-Agent) and Ariel (Gary Mars, whose performance gains much depth near the end of the play) are full of rapid-fire dialogue and subtle shifts in power and intimidation. As Michal, Katurian's mentally disabled brother, Richard Lambert brings a strange and disturbing innocence to this story of a writer whose works are put on trial because of their possible influence over others.

Waterhouse's direction is sensitive and pointed; he has really brought a pervasive sense of fun and irreverence to McDonagh's bleak, blackly humorous tale. As the characters reveal themselves and the story unfolds, the actions and movements of the bodies on stage flow gently around the story - adding to, rather than distracting from, the audience's ability to follow this complex tale. During the sections of the play where Katurian recites his stories for the audiences, the use of shadowplay and music (composed and performed by Paul Kozlowski) gives the production the eerie, fairy-tale feeling of a Shockheaded Peter or a Tim Burton film.

Tender and terrifying, The Pillowman is done justice and then some by Waterhouse, his cast, and the crew.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody