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.”