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The Pillowman strikes again

Tacoma Little Theatre readies its controversial production for competition

The Pillowman will be getting a special, drastically edited performance in preparation for a Washington theater competition. Photo credit: Dennis K Photography

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One of the more fascinating theater-going moments I had in 2018 was seeing the audacious, sprawling, challenging production of The Pillowman at Tacoma Little Theatre. The pitch-black comedy about a fairytale writer being imprisoned by a totalitarian government proved to be, by all accounts, divisive among the TLT audience, some of whom weren't quite prepared for the show's metric tonnage of shocking violence and gallows humor. But, myself and fellow Weekly Volcano critic Alec Clayton both loved it and included it in our year-end "best of" lists.

It seems an ideal candidate, then, to be selected to represent the Puget Sound in the upcoming Kaleidoscope Festival, a biennial competition put on by the Washington State Community Theatre Association, pitting the best of the state's past season against one another. Competing at the Kaleidoscope Festival does come with some challenges, though -- namely, all the shows are being staged as edited, one-hour versions. In the case of The Pillowman, that means that director Blake R. York had some tough decisions to make when deciding what to cut from the show's considerable runtime of over two-and-a-half hours.

"My biggest concern with doing a cutting of The Pillowman that fits into the one-hour time slot we are given is still keeping as much levity as possible," said York. "It is a dark show, but it is also very funny, and while cutting the script, the easiest parts to cut out are all of the funny moments. I didn't want to do that since that's what made me fall in love with this show. We decided to just perform Act 1 of the script, which still involved a lot of cutting, but I think keeps the most important elements and gives the audience a memorable moment at the end of the piece."

Before heading to the Kaleidoscope Festival in Prosser at the end of the month, York will be staging the festival cut of The Pillowman at TLT this Sunday. The solid four-person core cast -- consisting of Jacob Tice, Andrew Fry, Christian Carvajal, and Sean Neely -- will be returning for these performances. When asked about how it felt to return to this play, York said it was just like riding a bike.

"Returning to this material almost a year after putting it up has been surprisingly easy," said York. "The first time putting it back on its feet, all of the lines and blocking clicked back into all of the actors' brains like they had just performed the show last week. ... I'm very excited to share this show with even more people and to represent TLT at the Kaleidoscope Festival later this month."

If you missed The Pillowman when it ran at TLT last year, or if you want to experience it again, this Sunday's show will be a tantalizing taste of what the play has to offer, in all its wild, provocative glory. Fingers crossed that York and company break a leg when they take the show on the road to the Kaleidoscope Festival.

THE PILLOWMAN, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 24, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma, $10, 253.272.2281,

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