Loeb Experimental Theater
Directed By Maria-Ilinca Radulian ’11
Produced By Ari C. Peña ’10
Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman” tells a tale of childhood trauma, violent political oppression, and a writer whose twisted stories gruesomely come to life. Yet in spite of its dark subject matters, it’s ingeniously hilarious.
“It’s an intense play,” says visiting scholar James R. Morris, who plays the unfortunate writer and protagonist, Katurian. “But it’s also very funny, and places brilliant moments of dark comedy alongside a real range of emotions.”
The story takes place in a police state and follows Katurian as he undergoes a brutal interrogation regarding his work. The detectives leading the investigation suspect the author of committing a series of child murders, which are incidences that closely resemble the plots of his short stories. In this production’s interpretation of the play, the narrative weaves together scenes from the interrogation and reenactments of Katurian’s own stories, blurring the line between the artist’s reality and the world of his invention.
“[The audience] should probably expect it to be disturbing in places, possibly slightly uncomfortable. It’s not a happy play,” Morris says. “It’s about someone being interrogated in a dictatorship and their life depending upon answers they give.”
In order to represent the fluid division between the play’s real and imagined worlds, set designer Elizabeth G. Shields ’10 has constructed a large mirrored box with glass walls to frame the action of Katurian’s memories and fantasies.
“The biggest challenge has been finding the best way to immediately communicate the fear, danger and threat of a space, and how you escape and don’t escape from that in [Katurian’s] stories,” Shields says.
Despite its dark subject matter, director Maria-Ilinca Radulian ’11 describes the tone of “The Pillowman” as “playful.”
“I believe that this kind of story which is so dark, about people getting tortured and censored and executed, can only be told through humor and poetry,” Radulian says. “We’re basically treating it as a fairy tale and enacting it as a fairy tale, and like all fairy tales, it’s based on something true in society—psychological things, trends, dark undercurrents.”
According to Radulian, “The Pillowman” ultimately blurs the boundary between fiction and reality to question the artist’s role in society.
“It’s a story that talks about the right of speech and when censorship should be put into effect,” she says. “It’s about the responsibility of the artist, knowing the power of art and that it can come true.”