By Adrienne Stazzone
In a police interrogation room, a young man is seated, facing rapid-fire questioning and grilling by two detectives. The scene unfolding before audiences is intense, as little by little, a series of questions and answers reveals the scene’s purpose.
Welcome to The Pillowman, Rider’s School of Fine and Performing Arts’ latest production. Directed by Professor Miriam Mills, the play examines a totalitarian dictatorship’s reaction to the controversial stories penned by writer Katurian K. Katurian, played by freshman David Spadora.
“A young man writes short stories about children being tortured and murdered, and they appear to be coming true,” Mills said. “He is brought in to questioning by the police to discover what is going on.”
The Pillowman tackles a considerably troubling issue: the rights of writers, and individuals in general, to work creatively without limitation. According to Mills, audiences can expect to question the definition of justice and truth.
“In this play, sometimes something that seems one way is not necessarily what is true,” she said. “What we understand as reality is not what it appears to be at first glance.”
Despite its seriousness, those involved with the production insist that playwright Martin McDonagh intended it to be somewhat of a dark comedy.
“At first when we kept running through it, it was the farthest thing from a comedy,” said freshman Christina Fuscellaro, who plays Good Mother. “But now that it is in full blossom, it is a really funny show. You have to find the moments where the comedy shines through. You literally laugh out loud, and then moments later, you are in tears or in shock.”
This challenge of creating a balanced, multi-dimensional show has granted a great deal of opportunity for those involved with the production.
“I think what is most exciting is the fact that I have never been in such a complex show before,” said junior Laura Bobek, who plays Writer’s Mother and Homeless. “I think it is really bold of the department to put on this show.”
Within the last week, rehearsals have become especially productive, said both Bobek and Fuscellaro. In addition to working out lighting and costuming, the actors have taken this time to truly develop their characters.
“You want to understand everything about them,” said Bobek. “Knowing who your character is really helps you connect and make it seem real to the audience.”
In addition to Katurian, the play concentrates strongly on three other leads: Detective Tupolski (senior Kevin Feehery), Detective Ariel (sophomore Justin Kelly) and Michael Katurian (junior Tommy Butler). No matter how small or large their role, Fuscellaro stresses the common work ethic of the entire cast and crew.
“It’s wonderful because everyone gets the work done,” she said. “Even with the girls, who have the smaller parts of the show and aren’t on stage as much, Mills completely turns it into something that’s worth it.”
Going in, audiences may have their own ideas on The Pillowman’s offbeat subject matter. However, Mills believes that the show will challenge any of these preconceptions and leave people thinking.
“I think audiences can expect to ask themselves some truly important questions,” she said. “I really believe that they are going to come away saying, ‘This is amazing stuff -— this is brilliant.’”
The Pillowman preview performance will be held tonight at 7 in the Yvonne Theater. Tickets are available in the lobby prior to the show at $5 for students and faculty and $10 for the general public. The Feb. 21, 27 and 28 performances will be begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the Ticket Booth at $10 for students and faculty and $20 for the general public.