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BuzzSession: Pillowman, Inaugural Show of Newly Minted Wit Theatre Company

by Brandon Palmer

The Wit Theatre Company is offering Pillowman as its inaugural production

A brand new group, The Wit Theatre Company, is breaking into the Colorado theatre scene with a production of the powerful, in-your-face script of Martin McDonagh’s Pillowman. The play follows Katurian, who is interrogated by the police over a disturbing similarity between his short stories and a rash of child murders that has been occurring. With a show referred to as ‘a dark comedy,’ ‘brutal,’ ‘violent,’ and ‘gratuitous,’ you might wonder if it is a show that’s appropriate for all audiences. However, both Director J Murray D’Armand and lead actor Josh Holcomb claim, “This is a show that people really need to see.” Holcomb elaborates, “With this show, I think it’s something that even teenagers, 17 and 18 years old, really need to see. It’s a play for the current generation who often sees themselves as misunderstood or voiceless.”

Despite being nominated for several high profile awards, including a Best Play Tony Award nod, this show struggled to find wide critical success due to its dark material. D’Armand tells us, “I found some reviews that weren’t that great, the negative criticisms, because with a show like this which is graphic and brutal and violent, the shock is hard to get past if you don’t play it the right way. One of the biggest things I was reading was that it seemed gratuitous, that the directors of those productions were going in a direction more based on that shock value. That was the thing people didn’t want, so I tried to go a different way with it.”

Before moving to the Denver area, D’Armand worked with a company in Arizona that had slotted to produce Pillowman, but disbanded before the project was realized. D’Armand says, “I already had that concept for the show and a rough vision for it and when we were looking to get this company going, we figured, ‘Why not start with something we already had a vague idea about?’”

The Wit Theatre Company loads in their first production into the Bug Theatre

The Wit Theatre Company chose The Bug Theater space to produce their first show, a theater that has put up productions of shows like Planet X Production’s Robot: The Rock Opera and Equinox Theatre Company’s And Things that Go Bump in the Night. With an audience that has come to expect plays with an edgier feel, it seems a wonderful fit for The Wit’s plunge into the world and mind of Martin McDonagh, a new emerging master of dark comedy. D’Armand tells us, “I walked in here (The Bug) and the first thing that happened was that my entire set vision changed; but it really fits this kind of show.”

Playing the lead role of Katurian, a writer whose short stories often focus on abuse and violence against children, is Denver actor Josh Holcomb. “I met Josh Holcomb directing Hamlet. He played Claudius, the king. I sort of fell in love with his ability to absorb direction”, explains D’Armand. “So when the idea of Pillowman came up, I just put it out there and he was the first person that came up to me; and he said, ‘That’s my dream role.’ He really dove in and got really vulnerable, which is tough, especially when you’re dealing with graphic material like this.”

Pillowman at The Wit Theatre Company

“I kind of liken it (Pillowman) to a Tarantino film in a lot of ways. It’s very intelligent, very smart. The language drives the show and it’s very witty, very back and forth; and that’s just Martin McDonagh to begin with.” Holcomb says, “It kind of throws the truth of things in people’s faces. It’s very dark, but it is a comedy in its own right. I want people to feel comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. It’s going to get real and be very up in your face, but the nice thing is that you can still detach from it. That’s the beauty of theatre.”

D’Armand leaves us with a few thoughts: “In spite of all the violence, which we’re taking some surprise measures to soften, I want them to be able to look at the story that is taking place and leave having learned the moral of the story. We say the f-word a lot; but people need to see this play. I think that is a true statement. [Audiences] should be prepared to see a powerful show. It’s not extreme. It’s not gratuitous. It’s powerful; and there’s an impact that’s meant to be made.”

Pillowman, opening June 22 and playing through June 30, Fridays at 7:30PM and Saturdays at 2:30PM and 7:30PM. Purchase tickets by calling 303.296.3798.

***A local actor and theatre fan, Brandon joined the He Said/She Said team and hopes use his love of theatre to write preview and interview articles with the hopes of generating buzz for upcoming productions.***


One thought on “BuzzSession: Pillowman, Inaugural Show of Newly Minted Wit Theatre Company

  1. I was honored to be invited to see this during Industry Night. It’s a great little show, with the inventive stagecraft that I’ve come to expect from Jake and the Wit folks. Denver, come on down and experience the city’s Cultural Renaissance firsthand!

    Posted by ecosomatic | June 26, 2012, 4:02 pm

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