March 25, 2010

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Part of the action
Ghostlight presents a psychological thriller in an intimate venue

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Katurian, a playwright in a totalitarian state, is brought into an interrogation room assuming he will be questioned about something political in his writing, in The Pillowman. Yet as the story progresses, Katurian realizes he’s there because of the murders of children in his local area, Mariah Sefel said. Those cases “resemble his own Grimm’s-styled stories,” according to the press release. Throughout the story, the audience learns about Katurian’s childhood, and of his brother.

Sefel directs The Pillowman, by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, for Ghostlight Theater Co. of New England.

Active in local theater, Sefel is currently on the boards of the New Hampshire Community Theatre Association (www.nhcommunitytheatre.com), Actors Circle Theatre in Peterborough and Ghostlight. However, this is the first time she is directing for the company her husband, John Sefel, founded in 2004.

Now partnered with Chester College of New England, “Ghostlight artists work to experiment, try out new ideas (whether it be through well-known, long-forgotten, or brand new texts), and provide their audiences with performances that seek to stretch expectations of what local theater can and should be,” according to the group’s philosophy.

The Pillowman looks at “where does art end, and where does reality start?” Mariah Sefel said. She describes it as a psychological thriller with twists and turns, and characters with realistic imperfections — “that’s why I really enjoy these characters,” Sefel said.

The Sefels were seen performing together in The Taming of the Shrew in 2009 for ACT, and Mariah directed Much Ado About Nothing for ACT in 2008. John, Ghostlight artistic director, “has been wanting me to direct for Ghostlight,” Mariah said. He brought her the script for The Pillowman, which won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2004 and was one of the plays voted on at Ghostlight’s annual meeting, and asked her to take a look. 

After reading it, Mariah decided she had to direct it. It had interesting character development and was something she wouldn’t do with ACT. This is about the third play she has directed, she said.

“The growth that all four [characters] go through during the show is amazing,” Sefel said. It’s been a joy as a director to work on getting those changes to come out on stage, and “it helps to have four talented actors,” she said.

The leads are Ghostlight alums, with Dylan Gamblin as Katurian and Steve Ihde as his brother Michael (both appeared in Ghostlight’s Psycho Beach Party, among other work). Detectives Tuposki and Ariel are played by Mark Morrison (seen in Seven Santas) and John Kneeland (seen in subUrbia).

The black box at Chester College only seats about 20. “The show is just such an intimate show anyway,” Sefel said. With only four characters and an intense script, the black box “feels like an interrogation room,” Sefel said.

Those watching are almost as involved as a character within the show, she said. “I think it will add a lot to [the actors’] performances...,” Sefel said.

However, the limited seating also means you should order tickets in advance.

Ghostlight noted that The Pillowman is meant for audience members 18 or older: “I definitely want to make sure people understand it is for adults,” Sefel said. While you may not see violence, “topics discussed are for mature audiences only,” she said.


Thriller in Chester
What: The Pillowman, by Martin McDonagh, presented by Ghostlight Theater Co. of New England.

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 7 p.m. from March 26 through April 11. No show April 4.

Where: The Black Box Theater in Douglas Hall, at Chester College of New England, 40 Chester St., Chester, 887-4401, www.chestercollege.edu.

Cost: $15, or $12 for students and military. Call 930-9536 or visit www.gltne.org.

Notes: The Pillowman is not intended for audiences younger than 18, according to Ghostlight. The Chester venue only seats about 20 people, so purchasing tickets in advance is recommended, particularly since the venue is off the beaten path. Ghostlight plans to also stage this production in July as part of the Capitol Center for the Arts’ “Spotlight Series,” in September during the NHCTA state theater festival, and at the New England Fringe Festival in October.

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