THE PILLOWMAN by Martin McDonagh, directed by David Ferry (BirdLand/Canadian Stage). Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). To October 27. $20-$56, some rush and Monday pwyc. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNNN
Sometimes stories are more truthful than their tellers.
That's what cops Tupolski and Ariel believe when they interrogate Katurian, the man they've pulled in for a series of murders. Seems several of Katurian's stories eerily echo the deaths of local children. Katurian denies knowledge of anything; the police intend to get a confession.
Martin McDonagh 's chilling, darkly funny, unpredictable The Pillowman also weaves in Katurian's developmentally challenged brother Michal and powerful re-enactments of Katurian's tales. Filled with violence actual and implied, it's an acid bath of surprises.
The BirdLand/ Canadian Stage production, directed by David Ferry , occasionally falls into slowish rhythms but generally grips the audience with its twists and turns. The design by Glenn Davidson (set and lights), Gillian Gallow (costumes) and John Gzowski (sound) is intentionally oppressive.
The play is structured like an onion, with constant revelations and shifts of sympathy, and Ferry's actors are attuned to the rich nuances of their characters. Richard McMillan and Oliver Becker have explosive chemistry as the cops, at times ghoulish clowns who enjoy toying with their prey. Their relationship with each other has its own sadistic element.
Shaun Smyth 's Katurian could be a bit more complex at times, while Paul Fauteux as Michal lets us into the dawning consciousness of a man who's been protected, perhaps too much, by his brother. Their early scene together resonates with great warmth.
The Pillowman -- the title of one of Katurian's horrifying and sad tales -- is ultimately about storytelling, its effect on the speaker and the listener. It also suggests that anyone who writes or hears "once upon a time" is imaginatively empowered, though not always in a positive way.