“The Pillowman” by Six Elements Theatre: Cold, hard truth


Saturday night was, as you may recall, cold. The heater in my car is on the fritz, so by the time I picked up my friend Katie and arrived at the intersection at which I was to appear to be ushered to the undisclosed venue where Six Elements Theatre’s production of The Pillowman was being staged, I was downright freezing.

The venue, it turned out, was a cold basement. (In the spirit of the production, I will not say exactly where.) It was warm enough that I couldn’t see my breath, but not much warmer—audience members huddled in their winter coats and accepted the complimentary hot drinks graciously offered by director Jenna Papke. As we waited for the show to start, I shivered and said to Katie, “You know, sometimes a site-specific production is a little too specific.” By the end of the first scene, I decided that while great art is worth making sacrifices for, I really was not going to enjoy the remaining two hours of the long play if I could not feel my toes. Judge me as you will.

Given my undignified, early exit—I won’t say I’m proud of it—I’m obviously in no position to review the show in a conventional sense. I can say that it started strong, with focused and energetic performances from Jordan Klitzke, Nathaniel Nesheim-Case, and Mike Lubke. The venue certainly added an element of authenticity to the show, which began with a brutal police interrogation; had I known what I was getting into and dressed appropriately, I would very much have liked to see the remainder of the play.

“There is the occasional script or project that seems to demand something extra,” writes Papke in a program note, “from me as a director, but also from the audience.” I declined to summon the endurance this production demanded, and as a result, I surely missed many of its rewards.