Friday, January 22, 2010

The Pillowman at Redtwist: A Storied Production

Theatre Review

The Pillowman
Redtwist Theatre, Chicago

Beyond being an outstanding, intimate production of an excellent play, Redtwist Theatre's rendition of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman is a powerful reminder of the amazing depth of Chicago's theatre scene. While I very much enjoy the touring Broadway shows that come to town and many fine productions done at Goodman and Steppenwolf (their current version of American Buffalo is superb), there are literally dozens of storefront or smaller-sized theater companies all around town--and even into the suburbs--at which I have seen wonderful work.

Redtwist's rendition of McDonagh's highly acclaimed 2003 play about a storyteller under investigation for grisly murders that resemble his prose, directed by Kimberly Senior, is a shining example. As is routinely the case at Chicago's myriad storefront stages, excellent performances abound from actors who I hadn't previously seen or heard of, led by Andrew Jessop and Peter Oyloe.

At 2-1/2 hours, The Pillowman is a bit long (especially Act I), but always engaging. And while its subject matter is rather disturbing, at times it is laugh out loud funny. I had seen it once before, in 2006 at Steppenwolf with a first-rate cast, and had loved it then. But Senior's ability to reinterpret it in a room less than 10' in depth, shared by the actors and all 30 audience members (this was a full house; the show has been extended into March), was truly remarkable.

Having last year seen McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore, as well as his movie, In Bruges, I believe the Irish playwright (and now screenwriter/director) is one of the best--if not the best-- working today. I'd like to see any of his other highly praised plays and look forward to 2010's A Behanding in Spokane. Although I don't know how concerned I should be that, according to the Wikipedia article on The Pillowman, what seemed like a completely original work is in fact largely similar (if not derivative of) to a 1991 movie called Closet Land. But I have to imagine this was known even back in 2004-05 when The Pillowman was named Best Play in England and was nominated for a Tony.

Regardless, especially for prices as low as $22, Redtwist's remarkable production shouldn't be missed and is one you won't soon forget.

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