REVIEW: The dark side of “The Pillowman”


The Pillowman

The Pillowman is a multi-layered murder-mystery originally written by British playwright Martin McDonagh. In this version, Palanca awardee and Egg Theater Company’s co-founder, George de Jesus III, not only captivates with his masterfully translated Filipino piece, but he directs it as well.

(READ: Egg Theater Company Stages Filipino Translation of The Pillowman)

Act 1 begins inside a police interrogation room, where Katurian (Gabs Santos) is being questioned by lead investigator Tupolski (Renante Bustamante) and police officer Ariel (Acey Aguilar). The play is set in a totalitarian society, where the right to due process has been suspended. Aguilar is allowed to use brute force to get answers from Katurian. Katurian is a writer by profession and is well-known for his dark and gruesome childrens’ stories. In this scene, he and his brother Michal (Paul Jake Paule) find themselves in a precarious situation because three murders involving three young children are suspiciously similar to three of Katurian’s stories.

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The Pillowman
Katurian (Gabs Santos) inside the interrogation room

As the play unfolds, we see that the dark tones of his stories had been rooted in the traumatic childhood that he shares with his brother. Both of them are now on death row unless they can find a way to clear their name. But the question is, have they really been falsely accused?

The Pillowman
Katurian (Gabs Santos) and his brother Michal (Paul Jake Paule)

This 3-act straight play is rich with depth and analogy. Each plot twist means more than what meets the eye, whether it is a point about the reality of mental illness, the effects of childhood trauma, or even the lethal effects of politics. It is a well-crafted puzzle that slowly unravels at every turn, and one cannot help but pay close attention.

The Pillowman
L-R: Acey Aguilar (Ariel), Renante Bustamente (Tupolski), and Gabs Santos (Katurian)

Paul Jake Paule is very convincing as Michal, Katurian’s special brother who had undergone a traumatic childhood. Paule is so consistent in his portrayal that one would never question the authenticity of his character. Acey Aguilar as Ariel shows both power and vulnerability as his back story is further revealed. Renante Bustamante as lead investigator Tupolski shows depth as he exudes intensity even during moments when he uses a subtler approach. The one who fell short, though, was leading man Gabs Santos who sometimes felt robotic in his performance as Katurian. The lack of chemistry that he had with the other characters was quite palpable, and his attack on his character seems too calm and collected for someone who was on the brink of desperation and mental instability. Nevertheless, the material is simply too strong that the audience cannot help but feel engaged.

The Pillowman is definitely Egg Theater Company’s strongest production to date. It will have a final show at the Pineapple Lab tomorrow at 8pm.

Photography by Erickson dela Cruz

Have you seen the show? What did you think?

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