Stage Review

The Pillowman (2005)

EW's GRADE
B

Details Opening Date: Apr 10, 2005; Lead Performance: Billy Crudup; Writer: Martin McDonagh; Director: John Crowley

''Incidentally, accidentally!'' That's how meaning — a heinous offense — creeps into a writer's work, according to desperate scribe Katurian K. Katurian (Billy Crudup), whose grim and mostly unpublished short stories are the center of a child-murder case. The investigating officers (Jeff Goldblum and Zeljko Ivanek) represent a police state, and thus tend to eschew literature in favor of the sort of empiricism only electrodes can elicit. But The Pillowman, a gleefully uneven thriller from Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane), quickly reveals intentions beyond the Kafkaesque. (''I don't usually go in for -esques,'' Katurian haughtily explains.) McDonagh absolves neither the artist nor the art, instead declaring both monstrous while celebrating the comic abomination of it all. It's a metaphysical knot the playwright can't quite untie, even in nearly three hours. But the cast — especially Goldblum, disciplining his Morse-code delivery — is having a ball.

B

Originally posted Apr 18, 2005 Published in issue #816 Apr 22, 2005 Order article reprints