THE PILLOWMAN At Bootless Artworks Is A True Gem

by David Bradford

If you told me I would spend over 3 1/2 hours sitting in a folding chair in an empty storefront at the Shipyard Shops on Wilmington Riverfront by Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, Delaware watching a three act twisted tale involving horrific child abuse, torture, murder and write a semi-positive review you would be DEAD WRONG. This is not a semi-positive review. This is an absolutely glowing review!

Sean Close (on floor), Jim Ludovici (Tupolski) in a scene from Bootless Artworks' THE PILLOWMAN, playing in Wilmington Delaware through April 9. (Photo by Jules Victor)

Bootless Artworks’ production of Martin McDonough’s THE PILLOWMAN is nothing short of a masterpiece! Writer Katurian (Sean Close) is arrested and interrogated by two hard-nosed detectives in a totalitarian state. He is being questioned because recent gruesome murders of children bear a striking resemblance in details to similar ones found in some of his very dark short stories. Detective Tupolski (Jim Ludovici) is the wiser, calmer, senior detective. He is hard-nosed, seemingly unflappable, and a master interrogator. Detective Ariel (James C. Jackson) is the hotheaded enforcer of the team, full of emotion, full of rage, ready to dish out abuse at the drop of a hat. Act I centers around their intense interrogation of Katurian. They grill him up and down and read to us several of his dark tales. We also become aware that they have his mentally challenged brother in custody next door.

Act II finds Katurian in the same holding room as his brother Michal (Kyle Yackoski) where they discuss their predicament, their past, and ultimately their future. Act III takes us through the final resolution of the show.

The first thing that will strike you about the show is the incredible acting talent you are beholding. Close, as Katurian, will absolutely enthrall you. His ability to completely live this character including all the subtleties, nuances, and emotional confusion makes one wonder how Delaware Valley audiences are lucky enough to have him here instead of on the stages of New York or the screens of Hollywood!

Ludovici as Detective Tupolski could’ve walked right off the set of whatever police crime drama you prefer. His mastery of comic delivery and interrogator intensity locks right into the role. Jackson’s turn as Detective Ariel was also menacing. The character’s violent nature would be easy for even the newest of actors to pull off successfully, but it is the other depths of the character we are meant to see which take incredible talent to pull off realistically.

Yackoski’s portrayal of the mentally challenged brother Michal was tremendously believable. It would have been easy for even the most practiced artist to let down at various points and damage the illusion, but Yackoski never faltered once. From the time he entered the stage until the end of the act we never once questioned his mental challenges. His voice, diction, facial expressions, and movements played seamlessly into the character.

One last commendation goes to Kayla Milton who makes a brief but spirited appearance in Act III, despite it likely being well past her bedtime. She helps put a positive face on the realities dealt with in the show.

This long dark show for all intents and purposes should have made for a torturous evening. But through the brilliance of McDonagh’s script and Daniel Student’s direction, the show was an engaging, emotional and, believe it or not, very funny evening of entertainment. It started at 8 p.m., and ended around 11:30 p.m, and yet it felt like you had been there less than an hour and were ready to go for another three acts. I admit, one begins to question themselves at finding humor in such a dark situation, but in the context of the show it seems very natural and very healthy to laugh in the face of such horrific reality. Don’t miss this show! Whatever you do! Definitely for mature audiences only and people very sensitive to the loss of a child should know that it could be a painful experience for them. But otherwise, do everything to can to catch this event. A true gem!!

by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Daniel Student
March 24 – April 9, 2011
Bootless Artworks
Shipyard Shops on Wilmington Riverfront
980 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE 19801

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