The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Pillowman comes to Grinnell

“The Pillowman,” a Tony award-winning play written by Martin McDonagh, is the story of Katurian K. Katurian (John “Hutch” Freeland ’14), a writer who has been charged with the murder of three children. The play, directed by Craig Quintero, follows an ultraviolent and dreamlike tale, featuring two over-the-top detectives, Tupolski (Khameron Riley ’13) and Ariel (Marcus Eagan ’12) as they take Katurian in for questioning. As the plot develops, the audience gradually discovers that the killings are actually recreations of Katurian’s 400-some stories, which all end with the death of a child.

Katurian has been arrested by detectives Tupolski and Ariel because the killings re-enact the murders in his supposedly fictional stories. The plot becomes even more grim as it is later revealed that a box of severed toes is found inside Katurian’s home. His mentally-handicapped brother, Michael (Joe Kloehn ’14), is also taken into custody and forced by the detectives to confess to the murders, which causes problems for Katurian.

Though this is a comedy, it is a dark one that is wrought with disturbing imagery, harsh language and an unrestrained flow of bodily fluids. So where do the laughs come from you ask? Well, for one, the characters themselves exude a highly-stylized quality that is at once ridiculous and cartoon-like. But for every laugh, there is also a moment of sheer horror. For instance, when Katurian is telling Michael the grim story of “The Pillowman,” what is revealed is the horrifying reality of the story. A flashback to Katurian’s childhood explores the odd habits of his parents (Teddy Hoffman ’14 and Jessica Menary ’13) as they use the control and influence they have over his imagination in horrible ways. It’s messed up—and I mean that as a compliment to both the acting and the set design.

“As a story about stories, Pillowman was great to get lost in,” says Lizzy Montgomery ’11 who attended the opening night. “With a layering of plots, finding your way around is up to interpretation… as the characters are vivified on stage by some very talented Grinnellians.”

The minimalist sound design works wonderfully to compliment the somber mood of Katurian’s short stories in which: children swallow razorblades, siblings get tortured, a Pillowman who is capable of time-traveling dwells in the imagination of adults and a little girl’s parents actually think she is the reincarnation of Christ. The latter story, “The Little Jesus,” is depicted as a cheap high school play, featuring a young girl (Zoe Rodriguez ’13) who reenacts the life of Jesus, but with a deeply troubling conclusion.

These disturbing meta-narratives work to unmask the art of story-telling, while also constructing a dizzying medley of macabre. The climax of the play literally ends with a gunshot, as Katurian believes he has finally figured it all out.

We’re not so sure.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (1)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    J. B. GrinnellNov 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Wow! Fantastic writing! I can’t wait to see the play!