Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 12, 2013

Old Town Playhouse Studio comedy gets dark, a little grisly

BY LORAINE ANDERSON landerson@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — “The Pillowman,” a prize-winning grisly and dark comedy about abuse, child murder and power of story, opens today in the Old Town Playhouse Studio Theatre at the Depot.

Geoffrey Wallace, 20, who has been acting in Old Town Playhouse productions since he was 9, is making his debut as director of the four-man cast.

Written by prize-winning Anglo-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, “The Pillowman” debuted in 2003 in London. It won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2004 and the 2004-2005 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Foreign Play as well as two Tony awards for production.

Long-time OTP actor Dan Mello, who likes challenging roles, plays the lead character Katurian. Other cast members include Joe Kilpatrick and David Struble, along with newcomer Sidney Coville in his first OTP role.

Reviewers called McDonagh everything from a “master of bad taste” to a playwright “on his way to becoming one of the theater world’s luminaries of the 21st century.” His complex play often is described as disquieting, dazzling and blinding.

The play contains mature language, content and situations. It is set in an unnamed totalitarian Third World country during an unspecified era.

Katurian, a writer of stories often showing violence against children, has been arrested by two detectives because some of his stories resemble recent child murders.

When Katurian learns that his brother has confessed to the murders and implicated him, he knows his execution is inevitable but tries to save his stories from destruction. The play includes gruesome narrations and reenactments of several of Katurian’s stories that tell how Katurian developed his disturbed imagination by hearing the sounds of his brother being tortured by their parents.

“It’s important to know the content before walking in,” Wallace said. “It’s heavy content. The poster says ‘Challenge your senses.’ It really does challenge you in new ways.”

A Northwestern Michigan College business student, Wallace said those challenges are why he applied to direct the show, which he said is also about art and creativity, politics and society, fact and illusion.

“It’s also very well-written,” he said. “Every line has some meaning and undertone to it. There are no useless lines in this play. It makes people think about things they don’t really want to think about.”

Wallace began taking theater classes at Interlochen/Pathfinder summer camp as a child. He enjoyed the classes so much that he got involved in the OTP’s children’s programs and then moved into adult productions that included “The Good Doctor,” “The Tavern,” “Man of La Mancha” and “Evita.” He also attended Interlochen Arts Academy his sophomore through senior years as a theater student. He plans to enter Northwood University in Midland next fall to study automotive marketing and management. He’s worked at Marsh Auto Group since he was 16.

“The Pillowman” performances start at 7:30 p.m. It will play tonight and Saturday, as well as April 18-21 and April 25-27. The Studio Theatre at the Depot is located at 620 Railroad Place at the corner of East 8th and Woodmere. The box office is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Call 947-2210 for tickets.