Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Pillowman

Portland Center Stage
Posted by Frenchglen February 27, 2007; closes March 18, 2007

Somewhere in between. For a script that deploys so much heavy artillery (suicide, murder, child torture), tone of evening surprisingly calm, safe – even reassuring. Several main characters bedeviled by projection, diction problems. Tim True alone brings a voice complex and textured enough to shoulder McDonagh’s heavy storytelling demands. Gorgeous light.

78 comments:

David said...

Some of the danger has leaked out of this show for me since I saw the NYC production. Tim True as Michal is terrific--grounded and honest--and a high point. I also like the part of Tupolski, which I think is so well written that it accomodates very different takes on it (I'd kill to play it, one day.) For me, the weak spot in this show--where the danger leaked out--is in the costume design for the dumb show scenes of mom, dad and the little girl. It is too camp, too contemporary, and too cute to sustain the dread of an adult fairy tale. I would have responded more to costumes that were more archetypal or pre-twentieth century Eastern European. Also, the blocking was clunky, in the preview I saw. That might have been fixed later.

And, yes, the lighting is gorgeous. I loved the high windows.

Frogger said...

I was flat out disappointed in Ariel.

On Broadway, Ariel was scary, psychopathic, reminiscent of Michael Chiklis in "The Shield."

Here he was just...wimpy and compensatorally violent. It might explain the psychology of the character better, but it makes for a less harrowing evening. And less of a surprise ending.

Anonymous said...

Ariel did seem miscast.

This was kind of the Richie Cunningham Ariel. Just not physically imposing enough. The over-sized clothes flopping around made him seem even smaller. The idea that Katurian would be afraid of this guy was not believable.

Having Ariel hover way over in the corner at the beginning, as opposed to breathing down Katurian's neck, seemed to further distance him from the action. He was not a force. It wasn't even clear what he was doing on stage part of the time.

The great comedy between Tupolski and Ariel in the opening scene was missing in this show. It just wasn't there. Very tepid laugh from the audience. Several key lines flubbed the night I saw it.

After knocking Katurian out of his chair and poking him in the eye, Ariel inexplicably said Tuplolski's line:

"In case you haven't noticed, I'm the good cop, he's the bad cop."

Which totally missed a joke that brought the house down last time I saw this show, not to mention left the audience puzzling about the meaning. "Wait - but he just hit the guy?" Strange.

The whole opening scene should be very, very funny. Here it wasn't. But it also wasn't menacing or scary. It was more nuts and bolts "time to make the donuts" details of another morning in a totalitarian state torture chamber. Blah.

While it certainly had some good moments, overall show felt out of tune and unsure exactly what it wanted to be.

Anonymous said...

"In case you haven't noticed, I'm the good cop, he's the bad cop."

For what it's worth, in my copy of the text, that is Ariel's line. And I think it's funnier that way. I have no explination for the difference in the productions... just saying.

Anonymous said...

The "good cop bad cop" line IS supposed to come from Ariel.. it's one of the *many* ironies and symbolisms that most people dont get (think about what Ariel did at the end of the play to make him a "good" cop).

Unfortunately, due to a small prop malfunction in the performance I saw, one of the major ironies of the play was lost..
*SMALL SPOILER ALERT*
About half way thru, after Katurian reads his brother's story, he's supposed to light it on fire.. but sadly, his lighter didnt work, so he said "uh... he uh... rips it up!" and proceeded to rip it up, as the audience laughed. However, the irony is that Katurian was supposed to burn his brother's story and in the end, Katurians stories were saved from being burned by none other than Ariel.

All in all though, I enjoyed the show.. even the goofy "fairy tale" scenes and the awkward unreal "torture" scenes.

It was just very different and dark.

And as usual, Tim True was EXCELLENT...

Follow Spot said...

Posted by Followspot March 3, 2007; closes March 18, 2007.

Worthwhile attempt shy of potential. Sinister stories filled with recesses, but production hardly as harrowing as hyped/hoped: house more chilling than stage. Like brutal cable cleaned up for wimpy network: director de-manipulation? Devilishly-sick humor, but clownish detectives and rag-doll Katurian more laughable than lurid. Ambience deftly rung by Casi Pacilio.

Jeanette said...

Something that hasn't been mentioned yet that was disappointing to both myself and the person I went to see this with... even though the acting was of high caliber, no amount of good acting can sustain a two hour first act with almost no action in most of the act. From what I understand, the Broadway production hinted at the horrors being discussed, but off in the distance, and it helped to keep the story moving and keep people on the edge of their seats. I don't blame the actors for this - I think it's a failing of the director to fully interpret the play.

I do agree with other posts about the lighting, as well as the overly campy parents.

Anonymous said...

jeannette-
It's about 1:35 the 1st act, but who's counting right?

Jeff said...

Even a 45 minute first act can feel like two hours sometimes...

Anonymous said...

I've seen 6 hour plays that flew by and when they were over I was begging for more and I've seen one acts that seemed like an eternity and I was wishing I was having my teeth drilled instead--
it starts first and foremost with aboslutely compelling writing and then it needs wonderful actors to bring it to life.

Anonymous said...

I've got the Faber and Faber book version of the play - with bright orange cover.

Bottom of page 12. After Ariel knocks over Katurian.

TUPOLSKI Any time you're ready, Ariel?

[Ariel stops, breathing heavily, goes back to his seat.]

[To Katurian] Retake your seat please.

[In pain, Katurian does so.]

TUPOLSKI Oh, I almost forgot to mention...I'm the good cop, he's the bad cop....

+++

I guess it's possible this line could have been switched and given to Ariel in subsequent development.

Seems much funnier to me as written above.

David said...

I believe it was Tupolski's line on Broadway. I also think it's funnier, as well as ironic, since by the end of the show he's obviously not... even as one keeps hoping he will be.

Neal said...

Saw the Steppenwolf production, and found the first act, with the exception of the opening scene, not working nearly as well on the stage as it did on the page. Not enough Tupolski and Ariel, Katurian's narration not serving to keep the "storytime" scenes moving, and the reveal scene between the two brothers being far to long and, ultimately, unsatisfying. The second act kicked a ton of ass, with special props to Tracy Letts as Tupolski. Again, loved this script when I read it, but suspect it doesn't want to translate well to production.

Anonymous said...

What about the Friar?

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha...separate thread, if you recall...

OH S###...QUICK! Hide! Before the angry theatre Nazis come and yell elite, ├╝ber-intelligent requests to stay on task!!!

Wait. Was...am I the bad cop?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, and I almost forgot...this next part is where someone types out the word "yawn" like they are actually yawning, even though they are probably not. Stars around the word yawn indicate sincerity in demonstrating a complete lack of original thought, but also indicate the hope that one perceived as very hard to be impressed.

David Loftus said...

Not having seen the show anywhere else, I had nothing to compare. The lighting was terrific, the writing mostly stunning, and the acting pretty darn good. I wonder about the heightened cartoonishness of the story enactments, and I can see that maybe the brothers' scene in the first half might be trimmed, but it was still the highlight of the play for my wife and me. She felt the story could have ended with the first act. Not sure I agree, but the "responsibility of art" issue is always a red herring, for me. We wondered about Michal's motivation to lie to his brother about the third child, though: everything else he does, save for obviously lying to Katurian up front about killing anyone because that's what his brother wants to hear, seems the statements of a simple and direct, child-like mind -- but the "I did the Jesus story with her" line seems too canny for him: why would he do it? The scary advance warnings were a big tactical error on the part of PCS, I'm afraid; there's worse violence and mayhem on any episode of "Law & Order: SVU," and nobody sends out warnings ahead of Lear or Titus Andronicus. Tim True out-acts anybody brought in from out of town. Also noticed Allen Nause sitting at the back of the audience with Ms. Riordan; would have loved to have eavesdropped on their conversation!

Follow Spot said...

Speaking of Allen Nause and Rose Riordan ... The news in the WW today is that Mr. Nause is taking over the role of Tupolski ... "with only 15 hours of rehearsal (before he jumps into the role on March 13)."

Anonymous said...

There's been a lot of "jumping around." Nause was originally scheduled to play the lead in ART's "Retreat From Moscow," but when "Vanya" was held over, Keith Scales was asked to substitute.

Deb Lund said...

Sean got a B'way show. So, he's leaving Pillow Man. Way to go Sean!
Super nice guy. Way positive and great with the kids backstage.

Hadn't heard about Allen stepping in, but how cool is that? Gonna have to see it twice, now.

SO far, I've only caught it on the monitor, but right away, Don Crossley's Lighting stood out. Nice work DON!

I'd like to hear more from people who saw it and aren't going to compare it to some other production. Cause, frankly, what's the point in that?

Anonymous said...

Wow, Nause will be a big improvement.

Now if they could only get Coopwood back for Ariel...

Anonymous said...

I must say that I find Ben Waterhouse's reviews very useful...if he hated "it" I can be assured that it was more than likely brilliant and I will love "it" and if he loved "it"...the chances are pretty good that "it" was indulgent and histrionic.

Thanks for the help!

Ben Waterhouse said...

Why, thank you. But I didn't review The Pillowman. I'm hoping to make it out this weekend.

Anonymous said...

So who is Ben Waterhouse? And why does he need to be mentioned?

Thought the show was ok. Not my favorite play by this playwright. I agree not at all "shocking" and the hype about that may be a disservice. Interesting that it seems even a "risky" or "edgey" piece can still be watered down for mass consumption.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that anyone thinks another actor would be an improvement in the role of Tupolski. I saw Pillowman on preview night, and thought that the actor playing Tupolski blew everyone else in the cast away. He was subtle, nuanced, effortless, hilarious, and the only one who didn't seem to be "acting" at any time. I agree that True was also very good, but I'd already seen that role done well by most everyone who has ever played Lennie in "Of Mice and Men." Michal is a great role, but not one that demands subtlety or nuance, like Tupolski.

John said...

The lighting was pretty, but I kept looking away and up and out the 30-foot-high windows. Looked great at first, then distracted me away from the actors. Same with the sole door. The flying wall is beautifully executed, but as built, the door sounds wimpy when slammed (and didn't always stay shut). OK, maybe the door was never "slammed" but the wall *looks* like concrete and very thick and solid ... until you hear or, rather, don't hear) the door shut ... Sound like small details, I know, but they can break the illusion when everything else works so well. What kind of doors would a totalitarian state interrogation room have?

Anonymous said...

I would like to say hip hip hooray to PCS for stepping out of it's comfort zone and doing a darker piece than they're used to. It's always nice to watch a company grow. Even the big boys.
This was a troubled show. on many levels. The script has some cobbling flaws, it's too long, information is repeated dozens of times, (I.E. I didn't need to see the Jesus story, it would have had more power if the writer left the "story" out of it). In fact, if Katurian never narrated a story it would have improved the script. The playwright gives act II away in act I. I saw the end of act I coming from miles away. But in a script where it seems like Stephen King went and had George Orwell's love child, then killed it before it turned 5, predictability is is the real King.
I hope the writer learns someday that if you show a torture device/ gun on stage you need to use it. Why go through the motions of hooking K.K.K. (anybody else notice that?) to a battery then not shock him, but leave the battery on stage for most of the second act? Bad writing. This was the worst script PCS picked since "A New Brain".


When I read Chris Coleman's notes about reading a script like this once every ten years, I thought it was a compliment. After watching this production, I figure he meant that you don't read any other scripts like this in ten years because you put them down after reading 3 pages. Chris, just because a play has dark overtones, doesn't make it good.

After hearing about all the violence in this show and how "rad" it was. I was disappointed with the stage violence. I'm going to say it now: John Armour has been the leading name in Portland for as long as I can remember. What I don't know is why that is. His choreography sucks balls. Please someone, start hiring people that can deliver me something I can watch as serious stage combat, not some lame ballet. The headcrusher on "Kids in the hall" was more fun to watch than this head squeezing crap. John, pick up your game.

The acting was abominable. That's a director's fault. I was expecting a higher caliber when I found out Rose was the director. Tim True was the most connected to the text, but he went way too Lenny Small for me. I've seen this characterization a thousand times. Tim, break the cliche. Rose, why didn't you cast Damon as Katurian or one of the cops. It's a shame to see such a great actor in the background, when the foreground is piled up with screaming hacks.
The cops looked great, but as soon as they opened their mouths, Jesus...they couldn't handle the text!
I saw last of the red hot lovers in London in 1989. All with British accents. It sucked. And this is why:
British English and American English are different languages. If you attempt to do what is written in one language with the accents from another, there's something that gets lost in the translation. You in effect adapt the script to a different language. So please adapt the slang to fit your needs. Nothing sounds as lame as a "cor" in an American accent. Sorry Tim.
To an audience member that doesn't know the difference between cadences or care, where the emphasis needs to land on a terminal "r" it's not really that big a deal. But to someone that does know, it's like watching someone butcher what they say they love.
I commend PCS for stepping out of their comfort zone, and urge them to keep doing it. That being said,if I were them, I would feel guilty for charging $50 for such a lame endeavor.
Good script and a good cast are all you need. A three hour monologue broken by characters arguing over who should be delivering the monologue is a bad script. Shouty McShouterson's are a bad cast. Play the levels boy's. Play some levels.

David said...

"Why go through the motions of hooking K.K.K. (anybody else notice that?) to a battery then not shock him, but leave the battery on stage for most of the second act?"

This bit was blown by bad blocking and a poorly designed prop, in this production. On Broadway, Tupolski milked suspence and comedy out of playing with the electric torture box thing and always seeming like he was about to use it, but not, which added a lot of relish to his earlier claim to being the "good cop." The torture box thing was also set on the desk--more available to the action; more something that was actively ignored or approached--rather than off to the side, where it's forgotten, when not being handled.

Also, I do think that whatever actor plays Tupolski comes off well, because the part seems to be so well written. I've seen it done twice now, very differently, but both very satisfyingly.

David Loftus said...

I'm puzzled by the judgments of "we've seen this before" in terms of Michal resembling Lennie. We've seen pretty much everything before, so the point strikes me as moot. More pertinent questions would be: Is the portrayal appropriate to the story? Does it seem to express the playwright's intentions? Are the playwright's apparent intentions valid? Whatever the supposed resemblance, Michal is in a very different situation from Lennie's; he kills by intent, his relationship with his male "partner" is very different (if memory serves, Lennie and George do not betray each other, at least once and perhaps more, the way Michal and Katurian do).

Ben Waterhouse said...

I still haven't seen PCS' production, but it seems silly to complain about doing the show with American pronunciation. The script isn't written in any believable dialect. It reads like McDonagh's trying to sound like Tarentino, but ends up somewhere in the creepy, surreal middle.

Chelsie said...

I thought the two cops were satisfactory. I would have liked to have seen a different approach than the archival Law & Order authority figures. I did have troubles understanding Ariel in the first act, but it improved by Act II.

I wasn't convinced the actor playing Katurian had really been tortured. I wanted to know the correlation between holding your aching side and coughing? But in other respects, I thought the scenes between him and Michael were very touching.

Regarding the battery prop: I wasn't at all disappointed that it wasn't "used." Yes, it could have initiated more suspense...but I fail to see how hurting Katurian more would have helped the story. That being said, I was aware from the very start that it WAS a prop...

Great lighting. Loved the constant "drip." And I agree about the slamming door.

Wile I wasn't blown away by the script, I still left the theatre with a good feeling inside having very much enjoyed the performance.

jeff said...

I wasn't convinced the actor playing Katurian had really been tortured

I hope not...

Anonymous said...

"So please adapt the slang to fit your needs." naturally doing so only after obtaining permission of the playwright/agent of said work...

Anonymous said...

Being the Anon that wrote the Stephen King line,

David Loftus: Did Tim's choice work? Sure. Like I said, Tim is the best part of the show.

Does it make it great? No.

Does that make his choice of character bold? No.

Does that make him a bad actor? No. But in this role, he was lazy and Rose let him be lazy.

Will he win a Drammie? Probably.

Ben W: It didn't work for me to hear American cadences set to British slag. It churned my stomach. That's a personal point of view.

Anon 3:39: If you're going to change the setting, why not change the slag?

Chelsie: Why show it if you don't use it? In my opinion, if you bring a prop out, and spend 20 minutes talking about what it's like to use it, but never use it, you just wasted 20 minutes of the audiences time. It's an indicator of really bad writing. The old saying is show don't tell. as in show me what it does when it on, don't tell me what you think about it when it's on. That's just boring.

And that is all I will say anymore on this topic.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3.39 here:

I'm not saying don't change the slang; I am saying that if the rights to "Pillowman" are like the rights to plays I've produced, there's a clause in there about not changing any of the words in the script without permission by the licensing agency. So one shouldn't just change the slang willy nilly (if you will(y)). One should merely get it approved.

I don't know what rights say concerning stage directions alterations...

Anonymous said...

Saw Pillowman in N.Y. with Jeff Goldblum and Billy Crudup. Will wait until Mr. Nause goes into the role. He should be amazing!
Followed his career for over 35 years...since he was a mere pup.

Ben Waterhouse said...

I finally saw the show on Sunday and Tuesday. Amazing light, great, creepy sound, and Tim True was remarkably good. Allen has a good handle on the character, but he wasn't yet off book on Tuesday. Ariel was really, really bad. Who decided to make him retarded? I don't think drawing a parallel between him and Michal really works.

Anyway, I didn't think it was a bad show--but it could have been better.

Deb Lund said...

Finally saw it last night.

An earlier post posed the question about why Michal would lie to Kat about the Jesus story. My take was:
Kat had just hurt Michal by pounding his head on the floor. Michal says that was the most hurtful thing ever and then (I think) he lies to Kat in retaliation. He wanted to hurt him back.

Another post wondered why the script has Ariel hook Kat up to the battery if it never gets used.
I didn't have a problem with that.
Ariel is aggitated and really wants to torture (unneccesarily at this point) Kat. Tupolksi is no longer working on Kat, his focus (in my opinion) is now on his "partner". He's tearing down the good cop. The passionate cop who has a noble mission to rid the world of child abusers. Tupolski is cold and calulating and I think he knows Ariel will break before using the battery.
It doesn't get used because the writer (either sucessful or not) wanted the power of their conversation to achieve extracting the information. Tupolski, I think, is demonstrating how superior a DETECTIVE is to a POLICEMAN.

As for the cartoony dumb shows, the style was presented and I went with it. To me, it looked like the drawings one might find in a childrens' book.

I did find myself laughing alone a great deal of the time. The people sitting around me gave me looks.I started to stifle my laughter, but then I thought: Why in the world should I let them censor me. It's funny, dammit. Different strokes, I guess.

OK. The door didn't make a big slam. BUT it didn't take me out of the play. Loved the lighting and the subtle sound. Didn't like the pacing, but I got used to it.

Anonymous said...

*********Spoiler Alert************

Ben and Deb,
I'm the Misery meets 1984 guy here. I respect the fact the you enjoyed the show, I value both your opinions as professionals in this community, thanks for contributing to the conversation. I just think we can do better so I wanted to throw 5 more cents in.
Ben, the parallel between Michael and Ariel is that they were both tortured by their parents. The connection between Ariel and Kat is that they both killed their parents. As odd as it seems Ariel should be the most sympathetic character. Ariel is also the "everyman" in the world of this play. After all, he shares qualities with every character of note in this play.
This is completely ignored in this production.
Further consider that Ariel is the last image, from the play, the audience is left with. I put it to you that not drawing a parallel between Michael and Ariel is what doesn't work, which might be one reason (of many that I saw) why you though the character was retarded.
By the way it's an opinion I share.

Deb: "It doesn't get used because the writer (either sucessful or not) wanted the power of their conversation to achieve extracting the information."

I agree completely. I would go one further. Drama translates as "Action". There is very little power in conversation that isn't backed by action* (see my footnote for an explanation). Which is why I thought that the battery wasn't needed...they had all that conversation around a battery that wasn't going to be used. So why have the battery? In my opinion the battery would have been a quicker way to get the audience through the scene and it would have had a character show us something about themselves rather than tell us something about themselves. The disappointing outcome is that Ariel isn't as tormented a character as he led to believe. It took all the power that character could have had and dropped it, for no other reason than a (excuse the pun) cop out of a scene the writer could write himself out of.

I'm all about "Show, don't tell". Exposition doesn't give us any insight into the subtleties of a character.

The decision to write this scene (and leave it in the play)took all the darkness out of Ariel and made the play a Disney version of vanilla.

I still say this was a bad staging of a poorly written play.

Imagine how great it would have been if Ariel shocked Kat but the play ended the same way.

We certainly would have been left with a more powerful closing image.
There would have been a character dealing with internal conflict. A theme that this play, on it's surface, seems like it deals with, but upon reflection it's desperately lacking. All the conflict inside the characters has been dealt with before the action begins. The parents have been killed, the kids have been killed. We're left with the mess but didn't make it to the party. This condition Makes this moment, not the most important moment in the lives of the characters. I'd rather watch the play that deals with the cops tracking down the killer and the brother not believing, I would have liked to seen one of the newscasts that they talk about.

Show me the totalitarian state, don't tell me about it. I wanted to see it, hear it feel it, I wanted to be there. I didn't want to hear about it over the phone.

I can't blame the cast for the shortcomings of the script. There are no character arcs. There is no action. This would have been a better commercial for energizer batteries than it was as a play.

"Energizer: For when you know your not even going to use it."

[*Consider Tony Soprano telling you that he's going to shoot you.
Now, consider Mr. Magoo telling you that he's going to shoot you.

The power backed by these two conversations is backed by action.
You know Tony Soprano will shoot you because week after week we see that action.

You know Mr. Magoo will fumble in his pocket for a gun that he'll drop while falling down an open man hole, because week after week we see that action. This play had no action, no subtext no nothing. We can and should do better.]

Deb Lund said...

Well....there are audiences that need to be shown. This is why we have Wes Craven. There are audiences that don't need to be shown. That is why we have Hitchcock.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen it. Probably won't. But I am a bit disturbed by the fact that the ONLY consistently good thing I've heard about this show is the lighting.

David Loftus said...

Ummm . . . you only go to see shows that everyone agrees are good in every way? How would you have responded to the wretched reviews that were initially given to Beethoven's symphonies and Melville's later novels?

Regarding the shock box, I'm amused that the same person who criticized an actor for doing something "we'd all seen before" turned around and expressed annoyance that a prop was NOT employed according to custom and expectation. I'm not saying it was used well in this instance; just that it strikes me as a contradiction to declare that drama should always be approached in a particular fashion.

Doesn't art seek to push the envelope, break the rules, etc.? To criticize the manner in which the shock box was not used is one thing; but to criticize it for not being used in the typical manner, just because it was on stage, is insufficient, it seems to me. "Godot" played with our expectations of where a play is supposed to go, what is supposed to happen on a stage; does a prop ALWAYS have to behave in the manner an audience expects? Fiddlesticks.

james. said...

I actually was not a fan of the lighting on the whole. It was beautiful, for sure, but to a fault. For me, it overwhelmed the story, underlined things that I was already getting elsewhere in the production, or was in seeming opposition to it. The scene between the two brothers didn't need a warm glowy amber; I would have rather seen their warm relationship in contrast to their surroundings. This was especially odd to me in contrast to the other cell, where KKK's interrogation was taking place. The light seemed to be coming from a similar place (the high windows), but in one cell, it's cold and hard, and in another, it's the soft glow of sunrise?

The lulling blue during the story narrations was jarring given the setting as well, and felt like it emphasized the stagnant nature of these narrative monologues. Again, I would have liked to have left the acting and direction to bring that "blue" instead.

That all said, I thought the storybook lighting in those scenes worked quite well, as they fit the texture of those scenes. I would have loved for that to stand in harsh contrast to the world of the cells...to "escape" from the cold cells, where some tenderness is actually occurring, to the warm storybooks, where really terrible things are actually occurring.

Ben Waterhouse said...

Anon 11:55: if I wanted horror-film style special effects, I'd go see a Tarentino movie. I don't think the actor playing Katurian played the violence convincingly as it was, and I'm glad Rose didn't decide to stick us with another five minutes of boring, unbelievable thrashing around.

I agree that Ariel should be a sympathetic character, but I don't think he was in this production. He came across as a man-child, not a man driven by the need for revenge.

Anonymous said...

For free tix to pillowman on sun. at 2pm E-mail Thom at the following with a request for 1-2 comp tix. Come see Allen Nause kick ass! thomt@pcs.org

Anonymous said...

Deb: Hitchcock is definitely a director I would consider a "show me" vs. "tell me". The shower scene from psycho wouldn't have been very good if it was done with Norman telling his "mother" what he did. That's what I mean by show me don't tell me. I don't know anything about Wes Craven so I have to defer to you on that.

Anonymous said...

David. What I said about the acting and the prop is not a split call or a double standard.

What Tim did was lazy. (director's fault)

The use of the battery was lazy. (writer's fault)

Same call. different reasons.

Theatre should push the envelope, you're right. This play did not push the envelope, it stuffed the envelope. And then the envelope went out with the other junk mail.

Ben. I think we are in agreement here re: Ariel.

Deb Lund said...

I'd love to chat with you about it without wasting space on the blog. But alas, you are the sort who doesn't "tell" us who you are.
If the script tells me something happened, I don't need to have it shown. I read books and don't have to act them out in order to be moved by them.

Hitchcock never showed Marion getting slashed. He showed a knife in a raised hand and cut away, letting the audience create the gorey details in their imagination.

But back to Pillowman.
I liked the production. I don't expect everyone to agree about it. I do however, wonder why the majority of criticism is about how it was done somewhere else, or with the intimation that the criticiser is telling us "I would have done it this way or cast someone else".

SERIOUSLY. What is the point in that?

David said...

"I do however, wonder why the majority of criticism is about how it was done somewhere else, or with the intimation"

In my case, I compared the PCS production with the Broadway production because I wanted to stress that I don't think problems with the PCS production are the fault of the play itself. I saw it done in NYC so that it blew me away. I felt mildly bored by it, here. The NYC production gives me a tool for trying to figure out why the is one bored me, e.g., problems with blocking, bungling of the battery bit (which worked brilliantly in NYC)perhaps miscasting of Ariel (though there was a lot about him I did like.) If I hadn't seen the NYC show, I'd probably have different answers.

Anonymous said...

Deb: "If the script tells me something happened, I don't need to have it shown".

Then why hire actors? Why not just put the script on a podium for 2 hours and have the audience stare at it?

...And Hitchcock showed you the shower scene, he didn't tell you about what it'd be like if he got around to doing it. That's where we differ on our definitions between show and tell.

But there's no point in our fighting. To my taste, this script was just a lot of dialog that repeated information, telling me all about how great the shower scene would be. Never actually showing me a its shower scene.

I'm not interested in engaging in an online battle, so this will be my absolute last post on this matter.

Hardly Anonymous Deb said...

Not a battle. Never was a fight.
Just a dialogue (with how many people, I have no idea - anonymous and all- y'all could be anyone.)
Sorry you felt that way. Never meant to say "you're wrong", just looking to understand where you are coming from. Still not too clear.
*huge grin* perhaps if you could pantomime it for me.

Anonymous said...

It's simply a case of a truly great script that was sabotaged by two terrible casting choices (K & A), a softening of the edgs instead of embracing them, and feeling the need to use the expanse of the entire stage rather than making all the scenes (except for the dumbshows) feel very clausrophobic. Ultimately the problem lies with the choices the director made.

Anonymous said...

Liked the first act quite a lot, felt a bit let down by the second act, largely because I expected a bigger, more resonant twist at the end in keeping with K's stories. Didn't think Tim was lazy, that there was a subtle cunning beneath his performance that was compelling and haunting. Thought the play raised some interesting questions about the blanket violence of a totalitarian state and endemic, generational domestic violence, some of which may be more resonant in Ireland than here due to differing histories (America's oppressed largely belonging to minorities and the poor rather a majority fighting occupation). In short, this was one of those plays I liked better the next day than I did upon immediately leaving the theatre.

Although, these days: thought crime=real crime? Careful what you think, write, act, etc. Audiences, critics, and others are all too ready to label portrayal of despicable behavior as endorsement rather than criticsm of said. And God forbid you're even-handed and attempt to portray monsters as human. Can't have that, no, no. Because that might mean some of us who walk upright, love our families, and would never hurt a cute animal are not so clean and pure down in the sticky muck of the unconscious.

Finally, didn't see the New York production; so I can't compare it to that, but I wondered if that big stage didn't drain some of the menance from the piece. I can see how staging it in a much smaller space would make the experience almost unbearable (heh-heh-heh...the possibilties).

Anonymous said...

a pale clone of the recent b’way production.

1. if the room the play is set in is supposed to be an imposing
cell-like holding room, why is it lit to show the seams in the flats?
and why does the door look and sound like a child could kick it in?

2. why are the actors yelling their lines, even in casual conversation?
we can hear you.

3. how are we to believe that the 150 pound actor who is supposed to be
nursing cracked ribs can overpower and kill the 200 pound actor? it
doesn’t fly and is, shall we say, central to the plot.

4. the nearly inaudible background sound loop that runs through out the
entire show ultimately becomes a distraction.

5. one of the actors rubs his eyes a lot. finally our eyes itch.

6. there is a difference between a laugh caused when the character is
trying to be funny within the play and a laugh caused by the play being
funny to the audience, but NOT to the characters. the director here
did not make a distinction between the two and too often the actors are
trying for a laugh when in fact what they are saying should not be
funny to them, only to us.
it makes for a selfconscious delivery, and it is not auspicious.

7. some of the best lines of the play are lost due to the even cadence
of the actor’s delivery. the lines are buried in the “sameness.”
again, the director is responsible for making these moments stand alone
and focused so the audience actually gets to hear them and more important to digest them.

8. this director is a far cry from proficiently delivering the play to the audience intact, as written, and with all its powers at play.

9. there is not a paucity of good actors in this town -- there is a distinct poverty of competent directors.

Anonymous said...

can someone explain this to me?
in the script, one of the characters tells a story about a deaf person about to be hit by a train.
a bystander sees the situation and takes steps to save the deaf person.
another character asks, "how does he know he's deaf?"
the person answers haltingly, "he can see his hearing aid"
now in the context of the play, the story is supposed to be lame BUT
no one points out to the teller of the story that deaf persons don't wear hearing aids -- they are deaf -- and even if they DID, well then they could hear the train coming for themselves.
it's always bothered me, even when i saw in it NYC.

Deb Lund said...

You've got the answer right there.
The story is supposed to be lame. Tupolsky is a bad story teller. He throws the hearing aid thing in to cover for the gaping loophole that Kat points out. I found it funny.
That's actually one of those moments where I found myself laughing by myself.

Anonymous said...

how are we to believe that the 150 pound actor who is supposed to be nursing cracked ribs can overpower and kill the 200 pound actor?

Adrenaline; if you have never experienced the true effects of it, of course this doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

i guess my point is: i didn't SEE the adrenaline either.
it was lame.

Anonymous said...

Saw it Sunday matinee, left at intermission. I really loved Allen Nause, but I'd had enough of a whiny Katurian shouting about art. Crucial mistep for me was treatment of the "parents tortured Michael until Katurian killed them" subplot; it was simply dumped on us, turning all the subsequent discussion away from a dance around what actually happened into campy gothic crap. Similarly, Michael/Katurian dialogues glossed over Katurian and Michael creating reality for each other, making the whole thing seem pointless. If we don't figure out that Michael is telling Katurian what he wants to hear from the very start, then there's no suspense as to what Michael actually did.

But seriously, Katurian was completely unsympathetic. The annoying guy in creative writing class who thinks other people are stupid because they don't get his story about blowjobs. If he's a normal guy, then the way he defends his work doesn't make sense, and the whole litany of crazy shit becomes ludicrous. Good overlapping dialogue in the first scene, though!

Anonymous said...

Spoken like a true ethnocentric American. Perhaps reading Milan Kundera or some of the other Eastern Bloc writers under Soviet domination might give you a little better appreciation for the seriousness of the creative act in a totalitarian world.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps reading Milan Kundera or some of the other Eastern Bloc writers under Soviet domination might give you a little better appreciation for the seriousness of the creative act in a totalitarian world.

Or perhaps not. If this is what the author wanted us to get from it, maybe it was not dumbed down enough for people like myself who go to a show for the sake of the show. And maybe I, too, am being ethnocentric, but from the outside, the show is called "Pillowman", so there's no real indication of what you think any of us should be doing prior to viewing.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it's precisely because I've studied artists' repression in the USSR that this play pissed me off. Bulgakov's play Servitude's Hypocrite is a wonderful portrait of an artist struggling under totalitarian repression, because it shows us the reasons that Moliere needed to create art. This production said Katurian's screwed-up biography was the reason he produced and needed to keep producing "good art", but Katurian seemed like a perfectly normal dude, and his art was an indifferent collection of squalid stories. I didn't buy any of it.

It's a very important question whether all artistic expression should be allowed, and the totalitarian system is a good lens to focus that question with, but don't devalue the lives that were destroyed under Soviet repression (or even the poor folk blacklisted because of McCarthy). Those people were expressing truths the system couldn't allow. Katurian was trying to express things most people don't want written. Completely different things, and when I didn't see Katurian as at all abnormal, I didn't see any reason that his sick little tales should be published. I blame the script, too, but Katurian's attempt to identify himself with the Artist-Martyr just didn't wash.

Anonymous said...

"Those people were expressing truths the system couldn't allow. Katurian was trying to express things most people don't want written."

Unfettered expression of the unconscious is a threat in a closed system as it cannot be controlled. Perhap's K.'s parents, in a horribly misquided way, were trying to subvert the system.

I don't know if that's in the play...I'm just saying that's what the play got me thinking about.

The same folks who were running down reds in the Fifties were also trying to ban "Naked Lunch" and "Tropic of Cancer."

David said...

There's a terrific interview on NPR (in the archives) with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro in which he talks about his love of horror (as well as fantasy, et. al.) for its transgressive power, it's inherent challenge to any sense of order

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Ben Waterhouse said...
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Follow Spot said...

I'm removing the above posts after all, because it's already obvious where this discussion will lead, and it's not about "Pillowman" ....

Anonymous said...

I went clsoing weekend. Saturday. The only good thing was Tim True he died at intermission so I left.

The Bill Irwin wannbee was a joke. Damon?? Total characture nothing believable ever came out of him.

Anonymous said...

for a brief moment there was posting (see above 3-21-07 10:55) that was removed by the administrator for taking to task folks who say "mean" things about actors, basically calling the bloggers worthless pieces of crap.
well, here's another perspective: (if it doens't get censored)
here's why, as an actor, i don't mind the negative postings.
face it, you can't get the truth from your friends and family.
your director has long since given up on you. the reviews are just a faint memory as you get into the run, and are invariably based on a show that was not ready to open (such is life in the portland theatre)
where else can you get corrective feedback?
granted, it's never nice to read sweeping rejections of your work BUT if you filter it all thru the common sense of realizing that the poster probably has a motive for ignoring sensitivity, politeness and tact, then the actual info can be stimulating and in an indirect way, honest.
just as when a friend paints the best possible face on your show, a blogger, it must be kept in mind, is painting the worst possible picture -- cuz they simply don't care about your feelings --- and why should they? they are hiding their identity 99% of the time.
there is no downside for them.
now it's entirely up to me whether i choose to actually apply any of the feedback into shading my rendering of my role. i can easily accept or reject the rantings of the malcontent in question.
but i am just saying that, hey, they may have something there to ponder afterall.
and while their motive was probably not to help me as an actor, they in fact do just that.
because of their (sometimes pathological) need to slam me, i get better. nothing wrong with that.
(after the sting wears off of course....)
(on a side bar: they say there are 4 distinct personality types. so one quarter of the audience will love you cuz they are simpatico. another quarter will like you OK cuz they are sorta like you -- same with another quarter, cuz they are partly like you as well. but the last 25% will hate you. they just don't get you. they are opposite you on the personality wheel.
on a grander scale, to extrapolate, 25% of the people who saw "phantom of the opera" -- the longest running show in history --- HATED it. and 25% of the people who saw the biggest grossing movie of all time ("titanic") HATED it. UNFORTUNATELY, people who don't like things, generally are the ones who like to blog and who like to kick people in the ass. so my job, as the recipient of the barb, is to use it to my advantage.)

Anonymous said...

here's a couple of observations i think might be overlooked.
first is: i know what it's like to sit the in audience and see someone get cheers and think, well they have a perfect life, clearly, they need to be taken down a notch (and i'm just the person to do it!)
however, what we forget in our self-centered delusion is that EVERYONE has problems. no one i know has all the money they would like, to do the things they'd like to do; no one i know thinks they are gorgeous or a genius; just the other day someone i know was performing in a hit show and the next day they were flat on their back in the hospital. EVERYONE deserves your best effort at being a responsible blogger.
their lives look perfect and you feel resentment, BUT you've got to try to remember that we ALL have burdens. no one is as happy as you project they are in your mind.
second: think about this. no one comes to your place of work and then publishes a critical analysis of your personality, your clothes, your attitude, your voice, your sex appeal, your posture. no one says publicly about you that they think you should not have gotten the job.
this is our employment. and when you take pot shots at us, you in fact, no matter how indirect it might be, are threatening our ability to gain that employ in the future.
we don't do that to you, so don't do it to us.
be considerate while stating your opinions about any artistic endeavor.
and remember save the cheerleader, save the world.

WF said...

Anon 6:16: You crack me up. I agree with you wholeheartedly about being a responsible blogger who offers constructive, rather than destructive, criticism.

But I think you give this blog way too much credit (sorry, Followspot!). I can't imagine any director or casting director relying on the opinion of a blogger or his/her readers -- or even a review in the Oregonian, for that matter -- in making their decision.

Anonymous said...

granted. however, perhaps i was speaking more about the psychological damage done to the artist re their confidence, et al.

Anonymous said...

i have two matters to address. first to 3-18 7:18 PM.
your argument about adrenaline doesn't hold water at all. you are trying to say that adrenaline can make a 150 man stronger than a 200 pound man. you forget that they BOTH have adrenaline. in this case the smaller man is INJURED. now, if someone were trying to smother YOU, do you suppose you might have a LOT of adrenaline pumping? and if you outweighed him and he were injured, you could KICK HIS ASS.
it was a poorly cast moment and it did not serve the play.
second:
to 3-25 9:33 PM.
YES, i think that bad buzz can effect casting for sure. folks don't need to read or remember posts or reviews, but there is a buzz that happens, good and bad, deserved or not, wherein directors are GOING TO BE influenced when casting a show.
so YES, you people who post on here (when you're angry or jealous or drunk or stoned? or not) can effect someone's LIVELIHOOD. to think otherwise is to be naive.
KARMA KARMA KARMA, baby.

Anonymous said...

I've read enough reviews of music, theatre, and film to know that one person's opinion is no more than one person's opinion. I have a brain and can think for myself. Sense and Sensibility was nominated for Oscars, and I walked out of it. Most people in the world seem to be in love with Harry Potter books, and I find them to be middlin' fantasy-at BEST. People worship Nirvana, and I find them generally unlistenable. I do not find Angelina Jolie or Beyonce Knowles attractive.
Luckily, as a real-live-grown-up-person, I can form my own opinions, and do not have to take anyone else's' opinion as my own. Therefore, if I am casting a show that I am directing, I am actually able to choose actors based on their audition, their resume, recommendations from people I know and trust,and whatever I have seen of their work. I would hope that no director/casting director would base their casting on the many conflicting opinions of Followspot bloggers.
On the other hand-if it means I dont' have to sit through any more terrible "Bill Irwin Wannabe" performances like the one I saw in this show, maybe they should. (I also walked out at intermission when Tim True-who I had never seen before, and was the only actor whose performance was not TERRIBLE-died.
And, as an actor, I agree with the previous statement regarding the scarcity of honest critiques from those we know, and wholeheartedly welcome any negative comments that may come up about my performances. Bring 'em on! You can't kill me! You can only make me stronger!

Anonymous said...

i agree that there is a shocking shortage of directors in town.
there are but 3 great ones and none of them works at PCS.
hence should we ever really question why their shows always seem to be lacking?
no -- rather we should be pleased when they rise to mediocrity.
the fact that their ticket prices are the highest in town is surely to be their final downfall.
of course, they have no choice --- there is that pesky 9 million debt due soon.
in the mean time, other venues produce memorable evenings of entertainment for a fraction of the cost and thereby a fraction of the ticket price.
but why am i ranting?
it's all been said before and nothing ever changes -- kinda like the current administration.
you just gotta wait a few years and vote with your feet.
happy easter.

Anonymous said...

i found tim's physicality inconsistent.

Anonymous said...

Just was reading thru all the posts and you know I think I would have to agree that there really needs to be some tact in our critisism of each other. Some of you say "bring it on" but I'm sure if you had a slamming comment about you that was posted on this blog, you might be a little hurt or pissed. We all have egos and as strong as we may think we are I don't think we are completely immune to the stings, or second doubts.
So, I guess what I'm saying is if you have a criticism great bring it on but leave the insults out or maybe just among yourself and friends. This is a small town of artists, and quite a nice community, I would say, that can really grow if we maybe keep the NY attitude of (I could do it better) out of the blog and leave the "insults" to the Reviewers who are paid to be witty and insulting.
I'm of the school if you have nothing nice to say don't say it, unless its constructive. That's my two cents take it or leave it.