Sweet Dreams?

Children's literature harbors a vein of cruelty that holds our attention — whether it's the bloody caution of Edward Gorey or the jocular sadism of Roald Dahl. Now Martin McDonagh's play The Pillowman takes the comedy and the nastiness of kids' fables to their unnerving limits. The black comedy, set in an unnamed European country under an ambiguous dictatorship, involves a man who tells his mentally handicapped brother grisly bedtime stories, whose plots echo the line "101 ways to skewer a 5-year-old." Then a rash of murders bearing an uncanny resemblance to the tales besets the town, leading to an official interrogation of the apparently sinister pair. The play could be seen as a self-reflexive exercise — McDonagh has been criticized for penning overly malicious satires, after all. But the work's big no-no (torturing and killing children) is undercut by its absurdity, which reaches fairy tale proportions.
Jan. 12-Feb. 25

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