SALT LAKE CITY — A brilliant script by Martin McDonagh, coupled with excellent direction by Tiffany A. Greathouse, and performed by a talented cast, The Hive Theatre has an outstanding show on their hands, one with depth, horror, and bravura.
The Pillowman begins with a writer who, for some unknown reason, is being held captive by local police. The officers tell him some of his darker stories have been reenacted in gory detail in the real world. The writer is in shock, but as the play progresses, it becomes clear why he writes such horrific stories and possibly why some of them have been brought to life.
Matthew Windham plays writer Katurian K. Katurian. Windham certainly looked the part of the stereotypical writer; unshaven, plaid shirt, skinny. He drew me in with a certain likeable-ness, almost a guy-next-door quality. His character seemed sweet enough to hardly even have the desire to hurt a fly. These character choices worked at the beginning of the piece, as Katurian was under duress and didn’t know why he was being held captive. However, as the play continued Windham kept all these softer qualities of his character and rarely did the audience get to see a real transformation. There were many moments throughout the production where Windham’s character would be dealt with horrific news or details about the investigation, most notably when he discovers a certain truth about his younger brother. Windham would give his character a chance to react for a brief moment, but then Katurian went straight back to his old self. While this could have been a deliberate choice, I would have liked to have seen more moments of true transformation as Katurian actively engaged with the world around him, rather than a one-dimensional character simply reacting to stimuli.
Jared Greathouse played Michael, Katurian’s younger, intellectually disabled younger brother. Greathouse had an incredible task, and he pulled it off with gusto and drive. The actor stole the show, giving a performance filled with pity, regret, sadness, and remorse. It was hard to not like Michael, but it was also easy to hate him, a difficult balance which shows the impressiveness of Jared Greahouse’s performance. Jared Greathouse allowed his character to change from moment to moment, breathing life into the story and giving the audience discovery after discovery. It was truly remarkable.
Paul Chaus played Detective Tupolski. Chaus’s performance was less impressive, especially in the second act where he seemed tired. Although Chaus gave his character a sense of drive with wanting to know the truth regarding the case, Chaus played his tactic with one choice: condescension. It got old quickly. It would have been exciting to possibly see Chaus’s character discover new information about himself and his role in the case, using new tactics to get what he wanted.
Although Nicholas Diaz played the quintessential “bad cop,” Diaz gave his character, Ariel, a depth and range which was simply enthralling to watch. From a slight facial tick, to true commitment to his role, I could clearly see his character journeying through the piece, especially in the last 10 minutes where he is faced with a character-defining moment. Diaz performance was solid and dependable, allowing this viewer the opportunity to engage is the production, and truly soak in the meaning.
The Pillowman‘s script is one with depth and truth, all the while being aware of what it is. It’s almost a commentary of writing within a commentary of writing. As the play begins and progresses, the audience is treated with stories within the play, giving glimpses of Katurian’s past and his future. Though The Pillowman is a powerful piece of theatre, most of its drive comes from the stories it tells which falls into a great theme and line that Katurian utters, “It’s not about being dead, or not dead. It’s about what you leave behind.”
The Hive Theatre’s production of The Pillowman is one that can get under your skin and slowly bites away. You become used to the new sensation, but then it takes a greater bite to remind you it’s still there. You sit, watching and understanding in horror, as the play unfolds—all the while discovering what it means to be an artist and learning that mimicry could possibly be the greatest form of flattery.
With adult language and explicit storytelling, The Pillowman is recommended for mature audience members.