Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Ryan Musselman
Martin McDonagh (“The Lieutenant of Inishmore”) has a way with dark comedy. In Theatre Lab’s gripping current production of his 2003 Olivier and Tony award-winning play, the “black” in this black comedy is pitch. The title comes from one of the stories written by our protagonist, Katurian (Jason C. Klefisch), about a man made of pillows who talks kids into offing themselves to avoid a lifetime of pain. So, you know. Yeah. Buckle up.

In a dank, leak-stained room, Katurian, a short story writer who works in a slaughterhouse, is being ferociously questioned by detective Tupolski (Eric Dean White) and police officer Ariel (Darian Michael Garey). Katurian, scared as a rabbit and still in his night clothes, has no idea what the hell is going on, but Tupolski and Ariel, after probing him about his decidedly grisly tales, eventually tell him about a recent string of child murders -- murders that bear a striking resemblance to some of Katurian’s stories. After hearing screams from the next room, Katurian learns that his special needs brother, Michal (Nick Kelly), childlike but with a head full of his brother’s yarns, is also in custody, and according to the cops, has confessed to the killings.

Eric Dean White (Tupolski), Darian Michael Garey (Ariel)
and Jason C. Klefisch (Katurian Katurian). 
Photo credit: John Lamb
Throughout “The Pillowman,” in a stylish departure from previous productions of the play where additional actors are used, we see remarkable illustrations by Aaron Allen that depict not only some of the stories in question, but also the cruelty of the brothers’ childhood that Katurian put a stop to after years of abuse suffered, particularly by Michal, at the hands of their sadistic parents.

Too many details would spoil the discoveries that are leaked little by little during the course of the play, but one thing’s for sure -- this production couldn’t be more perfectly cast. Under the tight direction of Theatre Lab’s artistic producing director Ryan Foizey, this cast of four completely disappear into the terrain of the play. Klefisch holds your attention as the central figure, but Kelly’s portrayal of Michal, a damaged innocent, is exceptional and touching, steering clear of any hint of mockery or exaggeration. Garey is the “bad cop”, having to restrain himself from beating Katurian to a pulp himself, but White proves just as quietly intimidating when pushed. Allen’s illustrations are nicely underlined by Luke Viertel’s original music, and Rob Lippert provides the scenic design, with James Slover’s lighting design heightening the action, and Marcy Weigert smartly adding to the characters with informed costume design.

Jason C. Klefisch (Katurian Katurian) and Nick Kelly (Michal).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Sadly running for only two weekends, there’s a few more chances to check out this play, and if you like dark drama (as I do) it’s worth your time to see these fine performances for yourself. It’s playing at the intimate space of the Gaslight theater until the 7th.
(Also, kudos to Ryan Musselman, who provided the excellent story graphics for the production).

Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Ryan Scott Foizey 
The Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave.
through June 7th | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2:30pm, Sunday, June 7 at 8pm

Eric Dean White (Tupolski),
Darian Michael Garey (Ariel)
and Jason C. Klefisch (Katurian Katurian). 
Photo credit: John Lamb

Jason C. Klefisch (Katurian Katurian), Darian Michael Garey (Ariel), Eric Dean White (Tupolski) and Nick Kelly (Michal).

Lighting design by James Slover; scenic design by Rob Lippert; costume design by Marcy Weigert; illustrations by Aaron Allen; original music by Luke Viertel; painting by Michelle Sauer; story graphics, Ryan Musselman.

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