STAGES at Camden County College’s PILLOWMAN: This is No “Fluff” Piece

by Lisa Panzer

Director Marjorie Sokoloff, Artistic Director of Stages and Head of Theatre Department at Camden County College, combines horror and comedy on a set that is at first seemingly simple. Pillowman, a three act play written by Martin McDonagh, is a chiller with an odd sort of tickle. Katurian,the protagonist (played by James Collins), a writer of morbid short stories featuring the maiming of children, is arrested in connection with of a series of child murders. Katurian is brutally interrogated by two of totalitarian society’s finest, Detective Tupolski the “good cop” (Henry Scalfo) and Officer Ariel, violent “bad cop” (Eli Wood). When Katurian’s simple-minded brother Michal (Don Swenson), is taken into police custody and confesses to murdering the children in the fashion of the stories, Katurian eventually succumbs to the conclusion that although he and his brother will likely be executed for murder, his stories must live on. Acts I, II and III include narration and miming of the stories.

James Collins, Eli Wood and Henry Scalfo in a scene from STAGES of Camden County College's recent production of THE PILLOWMAN.

The show opens in darkness, sans curtain, then proceeds into brilliance. The set is basically a back wall of drab colored file cabinets of various sizes, some horizontal, some on their sides, that later open into into ingenious scene settings, from which characters from Katurian’s stories spring out to mimed scenes from the writer’s stories (Mother – Elaine Schultz; Father -Paul Brodo; Little Girl – Kat Kline; Young Katurian – David Latimer; Young Michal – Tyler Peltz). The play is lightened by a dark humor which provokes a kind of laughter that might leave some feeling a little uncomfortable, or guilty. And, oh yes, the audience did laugh.

The actors thoroughly brought the characters to life, and death. Collins lends Katurian a wonderfully cadent voice for narration of the stories, and his openess with the audience draws you in to listen things you’re not sure you really want to hear. Swenson (Michal) elicits laughter not only through his lines, but through the details put into the body language and gestures of his character. Scalfo’s interpretation of Tupolski is doubtless; he is in charge at all times. Ariel has a side that Wood keeps simmering on stage like the contents of a pot just about to boil over, and it occassionally does. Both law enforcers surprise us at the end. The mimes, pop with pluck and passion in their roles. Shultz, Brodo, Kline, Latimer and Peltz display depth and detail without a word.

The production’s sound and music (Timothy Planka) and the lighting (John Curall) worked well thematically, augmenting the acting and overall mood of the play. Costumes (Denise Buzz) were well thought out, especially for the mimes, and the overall show well organized, with ingenious use of stage space (Sara Dunn, Stage Management, Denise Buzz House Management and Gabriel Levato, Assistant Technical Director) for an amazingly riveting show. There were no lags in this three act play. Looking forward to seeing future productions at Little Theatre!

by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Marjorie Sokoloff
October 22 – 30, 2010
STAGES at Camden County College
Little Theatre, Blackwood Campus
200 College Drive
Blackwood, NJ 08012
(856) 227-7200

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Henry Scalfo November 8, 2010 - 8:03 am

It’s good to know that everyone’s hard work on the Pillowman was effective.
I enjoyed the review insights.

Tom Curry November 12, 2010 - 5:27 pm

It’s gratifying to see finally Henry Scalfo is recognized for the brilliant artistic value he brings to the stage. Kudos Henry, well deserved.


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