In my recent recollection of student theater on campus in the past two years, I have come to realize that most student theater produced on campus is either student-written or a “classic”. Students generally do not choose recently written plays to produce. Brian LaPerche (CC ’12) decided to go against this unspoken tide in his freshman directing effort. He chose The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh, a 2003 play by the Irish playwright. The Pillowman centers on the interrogation of Katurian (Sam Johnson, CC ’11), an author of many short stories about child murder. The two detectives, Tupolski (Tamara Geisler, BC’10) and Ariel (Jacob Coppola, CC’12), attempt to play a good cop-bad cop routine with him but they are unable to remove their feelings from the situation. Katurian is arrested for murders that are similar to those in his stories. Katurian’s brother, Michal is said to have confessed to the murders and implicated Katurian. Katurain simply wants his stories to be saved.
The stories contain gruesome content such as “profanity, gore, and crucifixion,” so beware. However, the important thing to realize is that these are just stories, “like ones you could read in the newspaper” says LaPerche. The stories plausibly could be in a newspaper today, which adds to the play’s realism and relevance. Geisler said she found the stories “disturbing” when she first read the play, but since they have been working through the play, “it has been desensitized”. Many of the stories Katurian wrote are acted out in the play. While the murders the interrogation concerns are based on Katurian’s stories, it is important to note that just the stories that are being acted out, not the murders. I was fortunate to sit in on one of their rehearsals last week. This rehearsal was the cast’s first with their props, such as wires, a crucifix and fake blood. Coppola said “the props make the action of the play feel removed [for the actors] because we see how fake it is”. However, these props add another layer of realism to the play.
I do want to stress that this show is not all about murder and fake blood. One of the main questions this play provokes is whether Katurian should be punished merely for writing these stories. Johnson asks, “if that story is harmful in itself?” That is a question for the audience and each character, especially Tupolski and Ariel, need to answer for themselves. Also, this play is amusing. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing at lines in a show about child murder. McDonagh’s modern dialogue coupled with cast’s comedic timing and deadpan direction add a needed dose of humor to this dark subject. LaPerche says The Pillowman offers “a lot of humor and hurt, but also a lot of hope”.
The Pillowman is being presented by CUPlayers. Written by Martin McDonagh. Directed by Brian LaPerche. Produced by Martin Willner. Friday, April 9 at 8pm and Saturday April 10 at 2pm and 8pm in Lerner Black Box. Tickets sold at the TIC. More information is available on Facebook.
Alison Goldberg, BC’12