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Totalitarian imagination from Breathe Art

By |2018-01-16T06:57:58-05:00October 4th, 2007|Entertainment|

By Robert W. Bethune

There are two features of Breathe Art’s production of “The Pillowman,” by Martin McDonagh: excellent acting and intense text.
In an unnamed totalitarian state, police officers named Topolski and Ariel interrogate a writer, Katchurian K. Katchurian, about three murders that directly parallel stories by the writer. The writer has a mentally challenged brother, Michal, who is also in custody.
This is a terribly dark world. There is not a single happy, healthy human relationship in it. Even the brotherhood of Katchurian and Michal, which seems highly altruistic at first, turns out to be founded on a black brew of murder, guilt, remorse and mutual emotional exploitation.
Andrew Huff, director, and Brian Dambacher, production designer, underscore the fantasy element with shadow images, but the action takes place on a gritty, simple set. The theater space itself is gritty and industrial, and the design fits right in.
Kevin Young rises to a tremendous challenge as Katchurian. The character has tremendous emotional and physical range without ever becoming likable, and Young stays with him from start to finish.
Joel Mitchell as Michal is a kind of holy fool, unable to understand the full meaning of his own actions, but possessed of a complete and perfected world view within the limits of what he can understand. He shows how Michal is far better able to withstand the pressures of oppression than the fully functional Katchurian.
Demetri Vacratsis as Ariel does something quite difficult: He makes us believe that Ariel’s vicious sadism is in fact based on a grossly perverted kindness, the Christian doctrine of charity hellishy perverted.
Last but not least, Nina Ljeti, an 11th grader, brings a remarkable and mysterious presence to her small role as the mute girl.

‘The Pillowman’
Breathe Art Theatre Project at the Furniture Factory, 4126 Third St., Detroit. Fri.-Sat., through Oct. 13 and Sun., Oct. 7. Tickets: $20. For information: 313-831-1939 or

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.