The Playgoer: Revisiting "The Pillowman"

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Revisiting "The Pillowman"

Some interesting thoughts on "The Pillowman" from Andrew Sullivan, who caught it at the Studio Theatre in DC. (With some vested interest, as you'll see.)

While I myself was not as equally sold on the political coherence or relevance of the play on Broadway a couple of years ago, I appreciate the seriousness with which Sullivan treats it as a real contribution to our debate over justice. Who knows, perhaps the play speaks louder two more years into this mess than McDounagh even intended.

(And perhaps not casting a light comedian like Jeff Goldblum as your chief torturer helps, too.)

And it's encouraging to see theatre indeed still capable of contributing to public debate--on a national political blog, no less. Maybe there's something in the air of a political play performed in the nation's capital that encourages more social engagement than in NYC.

UPDATE: Interesting follow up on Sullivan here, from a reader. Dare I venture, a Playgoer reader???


Anonymous said...

hmm, he didn't understand the play terribly well, i think - just saw what he wanted to see -

the problem with the pillowman is that the main story doesn't make any sense - psychologically, or metaphorically. the short stories are grim and chilling, but the state control apparatus is just pastiche pinter used to make an amusing background. mcdonagh really didn't have anything to say about state oppression - and what he's saying about stories just seems self-serving..

Anonymous said...

Agreed. And no surprise that a sadomasochistic perverse right-wing monster like Sullivan would enjoy the apolitical, ahistorical, hyper-violent all-male universe McDonagh creates. Yuck.

Anonymous said...

Ok, that last bit of hyperbole deserves a fisking.

"a sadomasochistic, perverse..."

Um, in what way? Because he wrestles with very complicated personal/political issues (sex identity vs. political beliefs)? That might account for the masochism, but sadism? Perversity?

Also, considering that sadomasochism and perversity were two of the traditional ways of referring to homosexuality, it's a rather unfortunate choice of words there...


Well, yes -- on some issues. Not so much on others. In case you haven't notice, Sullivan get pretty equally abused by absolutists on both the Right and Left.


Oh come on. I can only conclude that either (a) you've never actually read anything he's written, at least not in context, or (b) you really need to familiarize yourself with some of the farther fringes of the Right (especailly in the blogosphere) if you think of Sullivan as a monster.

I actually admire Sullivan a fair bit, for having the courage to wrestle with his personal and political questions and conundrums in a very public forum. It isn't always pretty, and it sure isn't neat and clean and black and white, but that's life, babe. Messy messy messy and we all muddle through as best we can.

And the initial point is good -- thank god the theater can, every now and then, play a role in public debate. Pity there wasn't more discussion of this in the comments.

David M