With Investment Recouped, Pillowman Gives Producers a Good Night's Sleep

News   With Investment Recouped, Pillowman Gives Producers a Good Night's Sleep The producers of The Pillowman confirmed they have a hit on their hands with the dark Martin McDonagh play that celebrates the art of storytelling — and explores the painful origin of one writer's creativity.
Jeff Goldblum in The Pillowman.
Jeff Goldblum in The Pillowman. Photo by Joan Marcus

The critically praised production recouped its entire $2.2 million investment the week ending Aug. 21, and will close at a profit on Sept. 18, a spokesperson said. (Playbill.com had previously cited a Variety report that the show was expected to recoup by Sept. 18.)

The dark comedy, starring Billy Crudup, Jeff Goldblum, Zeljko Ivanek and Michael Stuhlbarg and directed by John Crowley, opened April 10 and will have played 23 previews and 185 performances as of its final performance this coming Sunday. The run ends with the conclusion of the current company's contracts.

"Though recoupment is increasingly rare for any play on Broadway, The Pillowman's feat is all the more extraordinary in light of the play's controversial subject matter and the tiny capacity of the Booth — at 775 seats, Broadway's third smallest commercial house," according to a statement from the producers.

The Pillowman is produced by Boyett Ostar and Robert Fox, Arielle Tepper, Stephanie McClelland, Debra Black, Dede Harris, Morton Swinsky, Roy Furman/Jon Avnet in association with Joyce Schweickert.

The show, which peppers its portrait of a bleak totalitarian society with the grimmest of Grimm-like fairy tales, marked a stylistic change of pace for McDonagh, known for gritty, often violent, but largely naturalistic localized dramas like The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West. Set in an unnamed, vaguely Eastern European totalitarian state, The Pillowman first strikes Pinteresque and then expressionistic and Grand Guignol notes.

The action opens on a spare interrogation room, where writer Katurian Katurian (he has the same first and last name) is sitting blindfolded. Soon, Katurian (Crudup) is being interrogated by two corrupt and comically cruel detectives, Tupolski (Goldblum) and Ariel (Ivanek), about a series of child murders which resemble episodes in the author's numerous, unpublished, and disturbing fairy tale-like short stories. Also under arrest is Katurian's half-witted brother Michel (Stuhlbarg), who grew up on his sibling's stories and, it emerges, indirectly inspired them.

The script is replete with macabre tales, some described by the cops, some told by Katurian to his brother, some related directly to the audience and enacted by a supporting cast that includes Ted Koch, Virginia Louise Smith, Jesse Shane Bronstein and Madeleine Martin.

The design team for The Pillowman comprises Scott Pask (scenic and costume design), Hugh Vanstone (lighting design) and Paul Arditti (sound design). The play features music by Paddy Cunneen.