In a world with a totalitarian government, Katurian, a dark-fiction writer, is being interrogated by two determined detectives. This is all the audience knows during the opening of TJC’s play, “The Pillowman.”

“In Katurian’s mind, he’s in trouble for writing stories - short stories,” said director Jacob Davis. “He defends; he says he’s never done anything wrong, yet we find out that his stories are parallel to some child murders that have gone on.”

Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 through 8 and 2 p.m. Oct. 9.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.

“The big thing that’s kind of a common narrative is the fact of, what is art? Does art affect people?” Davis said.

“He thinks of himself as a good guy,” said Trey Treadway, speaking about his character, Katurian. “He’s always kind of been the hero in his life. He’s very confused about who he is. And he goes through a lot during this play. He comes to terms with all the big things that happened through his life.”

Because crimes similar to the violence toward children Katurian depicts in stories are being re-enacted, detectives suspect he is the culprit.

“I feel connected to this character, but really, I don’t have anything in common with him,” Treadway said. “I can identify with his perseverance. Since this horrible childhood, he was able to save his brother. He got a job, he kept up his writing, he was able to keep going. He’s also kind of brave, which I think most people won’t really realize during the show because they’ll be too bogged down by all the other things he’s been through.”

Kenurian’s older, mentally-challenged brother, Michal, played by Walker Delk, is also a suspect.

“The biggest question I’ve had doing this is, well, what would I have done in his circumstance?” Delk said.

Delk considers Michal’s mental age to be no more than that of an 8-year-old.

“He’s such an interesting character because you cannot truly lock down what he’s thinking. He’s so scatter-brained,” Delk said. “He’s got this childlike energy and vigor and playfulness, but at the same time, there are moments of when he gets into spirals of depression, those spirals of realizing what his life truly is. He is not in any way handicapped to where he can’t do something. I truly believe Michal can do whatever he sets his mind to.”

Delk found mutual characteristics with Michal.

“In that regard, I wish I was like him. I feel like there are times where I could have a positive view on the world. I think the thing that me and Michal have in common the most is, when we don’t understand something, we get sad. Instead of normal people, when they get confused, they get angry. Me and Michal definitely share the ability that we don’t understand something,” Delk said.

Two cogent detectives interrogate the brothers. Tupolski, played by Gerardo Carreon, uses manipulation and cunning and has no regard for feelings of others.

“I feel like he’s sort of angry to the world somehow, because of things that had happened to him before,” Carreon said. “So he has become really cold when it comes to feelings and all that stuff. Like, if a dog died in front of him, he’d just keep walking. He doesn’t care for anybody else but himself.”

Ariel, portrayed by Ashton Eichelman, is physically driven and aggressive.

“I love Ariel. She is so aggressive. Her anger and her instinct to use her fists to solve problems are immediately prevalent, but she’s just so beautifully dark in the most twisted way. You get to see that in the end,” Eichelman said.

Ariel is a new and exciting character for Eichelman.

“I just love how pure her emotions are, whether they’re crazy, high, low, out, in, she’s just ‑ she’s so pure in what she feels,” Eichelman said. “Whether it’s physical or verbally, she keeps trying to move things forward. She’s the aggressor and she wants to pummel Katurian. The two detectives are very contrasting in the beginning and the end.”

Ariel’s past has turned her into a cold and forceful person.

“I connect with her on a lot of levels, but we’ve had very, very, very different pasts,” Eichelman said. “Ariel’s past is what has shaped her. And, though I can’t truly get into the mindset as to how her past has affected her, I understand her passion.”

Tupolski, in contrast, keeps a faux face at the risk of revealing faults.

“He’s just trying to hold himself, all the time,” said Carreon. “He’s trying to pretend to be this tough guy, and he’s trying to be the best at what he does and he’s always trying to get control of the stuff and the situations.”

Carreon said he believes he is more like his character compared to the other actors and their characters.

“As I was reading the character the first time, I felt like there was a lot of similarities with me and him. It’s just the way he carries himself around. He’s very sarcastic, very funny. He doesn’t have a filter, he just says what he thinks. He plays mind tricks with all the other characters, and that’s not something I do a lot. I just do it for the fun of it,” said Carreon.

The play may not be appropriate for children.

Marshall Cearfoss is studying mass communication at TJC.

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