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The Pillowman

a Dark Comedy
by Martin McDonagh

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 1664

SHOWING : September 14, 2006 - October 14, 2006



A writer is interrogated about the gruesome content of his murders occurring in his town. When the writer's mentally impaired brother is also brought in for questioning, this police procedural takes twists and turns that will leave you spellbound. The playwright of THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE has created a viciously funny and daringly theatrical masterpiece. Jasson Minadakis directs this Tony Award Nominee.

Original Music by Haddon Givens Kime
Written by Martin McDonagh
Director Jasson Minadakis
Props Master Elisabeth Cooper
Stage Manager Anne Stainback
Michal John Benzinger
Ariel Jeff Feldman
Tupolski Mark Kincaid
Katurian Daniel May
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Mixed thoughts...
by jpmist
Thursday, September 28, 2006
First off, I'm relieved that I wasn't the only one who thought the play was too long.

Secondly, like the review before me, I was in awe of the acting performances that were uniformly excellent.

Which is why I regret saying that I didn't like the play itself; that it was overindulgent, a bit diffuse and messy with it's multitude of themes. For me the quality of the writing didn't rise to the quality of the performances. Granted that there were scenes that were astonishing, but the writing could have been a lot more concise.

Having not seen a play at Actor's Express in several years, I also wondered as to it's acting style which I can only characterize as "actorish." Is this simply their style or was this one play directed that way? I can't define "actorish" any better than to say that I found myself wondering at times if, as actors it was really necessary to find the absolute strongest choice for every single damn line of the play thruout. Since the space there is so intimate, I found myself wondering if the performances couldn't have been dialed down a notch away from it's hyper-realistic tone.

Pick, pick, pick, I know. I'm glad I saw it for the performances and excellent production, I just wish I liked the play more than I did. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
The Story Goes On ... And On ...
by Dedalus
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Back in the 1980’s, the Broadway musical “Baby” featured a beautiful song sung by a young expectant mother. Overwhelmed by the sense of continuity between herself, her child, and all the previous generations of mothers before her, the song “The Story Goes On” revels in the sense that we live in a never-ending story, that our own lives are an embarrassingly small portion of that story, but that we nonetheless add our own variations, our “Personal Stamp” to Destiny writ large. But whatever we do, the story goes on …

Trust Irish playwright Martin McDonagh to show us the dark side of that concept.

Katurian, the son of monstrous parents, writes stories of children meeting monstrous fates. His brother Michal, a victim of gruesome childhood trauma, creates gruesome nightmares of his own. Ariel, the victim of unspeakable torture from an abusive father, is a policeman in a police state; he inflicts unspeakable torture on those he thinks have inflicted unspeakable torture on children, whether they’re guilty or not. Tupolski, a detective who is Ariel’s superior, is the son of an alcoholic father who is, himself, an alcoholic. This is a dark and nightmarish world in which the dark and nightmarish story has gone on forever and will go on forever. After all, the story goes on … and on …

In McDonagh’s world, story is everything. Story is the salvation of the young Katurian. Story is the legacy he kills and lies to ensure. Story is the lies the policemen tell to force confessions that save them the “heavy-lifting” of their investigation. Story is the glue the bonds brothers, the terror that forces them apart, the obsession that burns even after death. And the story goes on … and on … and on …

Throughout “The Pillowman,” McDonagh plays with words and fantasies, with dreamlike connections and nightmare visions, and with a cold and dark humor that finds us laughing even as we’re cringing, that lets us enjoy the witty banter even as it underscores the sounds of bones snapping, of skins breaking, of souls screaming. Of young and innocent souls screaming. It is laughter and horror that drives the story, a story that will go on … and on … and on.

Those of you who found the Childhood Sexual Abuse of last spring’s “Love Jerry” hard going, will find the Childhood Physical Abuse described and witnessed here impossible to bear. Although technically innocent, Katurian writes stories that would repel any sane person. We see two of them staged in his imagination, staged with their innocence-destroyed blood darkness dripping from their faceless adults and happy children rushing joyfully to their Grimm fates, Grimm stories that, if left unchecked (and they will be left unchecked) will go on … and on … and on …

And, in counterpoint, we see four actors at the peak of their abilities, finding every nuance, every silence, every grim and dark ambiguity in three acts of claustrophobic mind gamery. Mark Kincaid’s Tupolski, by far the best work I’ve seen from this actor, is a remarkable creation, the “good cop” who finds delight in the power he has over his prisoner, a volatile song whose next note can never be predicted. Jeff Feldman’s Ariel is the “bad cop” whose integrity provides a solid note of grace, a glimmer of light in all the darkness. John Benzinger manages the impossible task of creating a mentally-challenged Michal without relying on stereotype or easy caricature, who manages to charm even as he describes the most heinous activities, activities which sound child-like and innocent as he tells them. And Daniel May’s Katurian follows the full spectrum from cautious innocence to wary skepticism to shocked betrayal to brotherly affection, to calculating conspirator to warm storyteller – this is a storyteller who recognizes the darkness of his imagination, but who revels in it, whose face glows with smiling delight as he tells us tales of the most gruesome events. This is not the macabre glee of the ghost-story teller, but the incredible joy of a man finding absolute fulfillment in his craft, whose craft is the art (ark?) that saves him from the truth of the story of his darker-than-fiction childhood, a story of truth that, no matter how long he lives, will always go on … and on … and on …

This is a long play. My motif in this essay will no doubt cause the snarkier readers to think I’m commenting on the length. In truth, this play would not have suffered by the insertion of another intermission before the first story interlude (Act 1 is almost 2 hours long by itself). It would have been even longer, but it may have “seemed” shorter. I’m not denying that the evening seems over-long. But, in retrospect, I cannot think of anything that could have been cut without causing damage. I cannot think of any moments that weren’t paced at their optimal tempo. This is an intense dark story that needed to be told, particularly in light of contemporary debates about internment and torture and the fine line between security and freedom (although the quote from President Bush which opens the evening was unnecessary and distracting). It is a story that brings to life our darkest childhood fears, our bleakest fears for our children. It’s only appropriate that this particular story seemingly goes on … and on … and on.

And, on that note, my particular story will now end.

-- Brad Rudy (

Note: The title of the play refers to one of Katurian’s more intriguing and symbolic stories, which I leave for you to discover. But, I can’t help noting that the ultimate irony of this play is that nothing in it would have occurred if “The Pillowman” had been made real by Michal. That it didn’t is the ultimate tale of the strength of story.

This is also Director Jasson Minadakis’ final offering before taking his massive talent to Marin County California, home of Tall Trees and Self-Development Est-esque Warehouses. His brief tenure at Actors’ Express has left an indelible mark on Atlanta Theatre, and I, for one, wish him a career that goes on … and on … and on!

A Must See
by St. Genesius
Thursday, September 28, 2006
I don't know why I feel the need to profess my favorites, but this is my favorite production I have seen at Actor's Express. Kimberly Akimbo had that title until last night. I am an actress myself and enjoy taking advantage of Industry Nights. Last night sitting in the audience, I had the first experience of gratitude towards the actors on stage. I kept thinking, this is amazing that these actors are doing this amazing job for us- the audience. It was truley a gift, and I thank each and every actor and crew member for sharing their talent.

Mark Kincaid playing the role of Tupolski was drop dead amazing- completely right on- as if he is a detective in real life. Jeff Feldman completely pulls off bad cop and sensitive man. The brothers played by Daniel May and John Benzinger were right on. I especially liked how well Daniel connects with the audience through solid eye contact when he narrates his stories. Can I also say that this is one of the first productions that the minor roles grabbed me as much as the leading characters. Kudos to the ensemble.

My favorite part of the production is when they acted out Katurian's stories- which explains why I liked the ensemble so much.

I think this production truley shows how Atlanta will miss Jasson Minadakis but thank you for The Pillowman. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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