By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
It's also a hell of a way for Kitchen Dog to open its 18th season. Co-directed by Christina Vela and Jonathan Taylor, this production benefits from a deep bench of talent with actors who work closely in ensemble scenes and then break out for those extended monologues. Trull, a company member at KDT and Dallas Theater Center, is the perfect pasty-faced patsy in the early scenes, then he roars to life as his Katurian character finds the strength to try to outsmart his captors. As Tupolski, the detective played by Jeff Goldblum on Broadway, Ian Leson adopts some of Goldblum's vocal mannerisms, delivering dialogue as though it had no punctuation to indicate stops and starts. Come to think of it, tall, handsome Leson is always a little Goldblumian in every role he plays, but here he's especially chilling and brilliant.
As the "bad cop," Ariel, Michael Federico is a worthy counterpuncher to Leson, though his character is thinly written except for a few angry outbursts. Cameron Cobb takes on what could be the "Rain Man role" as Michal, Katurian's childlike brother. He has the longest, most difficult story to tell at the end of Act 1, and his performance never goes, to use a current inelegant phrase, "full retard."
There are other actors and other characters in The Pillowman, but to tell you who they are and what they do would be to give away more than you should know before seeing it. Go ahead and get good and scared by this show. And then let it keep you awake a night or five afterward. Not just for its shriveled, severed baby toes and Lemony Snicket imagery, but for its warnings about the rise of the morality police. Where writers can't write freely, nobody lives happily ever after.