What’s In A Mercy?: A “Pillowman” Review

The material tackled many taboo subjects…one is mercy killing.

The play in three acts, which was first performed in public via stage reading in 1995, is a 2003 brainchild of the Irish playwright Martin Mcdonagh. The author is no stranger to writing pieces of literature with violent content. The multi-awarded In Bruges, a 2008 film, tackled the story of a senior assassin chasing a junior assassin for murdering a child, leaving a bloody path as the chase takes them to different places. Seven Psychopaths, a 2012 metacinema crime black comedy film, is riddled with botched suicides, murder attempts, and gunshots.

In a cramped interrogation room lit solely by a bulb, there sits Katurian (Gabs Santos), a fiction of writer whose subjects usually involve children being subjected to violence. With him are two detectives, Ariel (Acey Aguilar) and Tupolski (Renante Bustamante), who arrested him because apparently, the stories he wrote are coming to life and two children have already been murdered. The Pillowman is a protagonist in his story of the same title. It’s a time-travelling, and the kindly fellow made out of pillows and who existed to make sure children who grew up to have unhappy and miserable lives would take the path to end theirs even before their lives had barely begun. This is also the favorite story of Katurian’s disabled brother, Michal (Paolo O’ Hara).

The very intimate setting of the Pineapple Lab worked well for the play when it came to building suspense. George De Jesus III, known for directing comedies and musicales, delivered a surprising turn here with his tempered direction. As one theater reviewer put it, De Jesus leaned towards making his blocking picturesque by creating tableaus. Here, he was able to execute the required grittiness and messiness (an organized mess, of course) of the blocking, resulting in a tension-filled atmosphere, whether Katurian was delivering his monologue or the two detective were playing mind games with him.

It delved deep into the existential question of why one should live if one would just suffer. It made us question our morality when it came to delivering punishment for a sin that was done in the name of saving someone and also gave us a glimpse of what a totalitarian state will be, with the iron fist of justice. Is Pillowman a good or bad being? Who plays the good guy and the bad guy in the play? The answers were left to the audience to ponder upon.

Pillowman has remaining three shows this month, on April 22-24 at 8:00 PM. The show is mounted by the Egg Theater Company.

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