"The Pillowman," written by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, opens this weekend at Swamplight Theater in Ponchatoula.

Timely for the Halloween season of this nightmare year 2020, this disturbing play  comes with a warning: "'The Pillowman' is not suitable for young audiences. Discretion is advised."

Even before the spotlight hits the tortured protagonist sitting in a chair with a pillow over his head, the seriousness of that warning is sharply clear in the profane language the stage manager uses when he tells the audience they must use facial coverings and they must sit according to social distancing guidelines.  

Ben C. Dougherty and Robinson J. Cyprian are independently co-producing this play. They are friends raised in the Hammond/Ponchatoula area who went to Ponchatoula High School together. Cyprian directs the four-person cast.

Hans Heilmann plays Katurian, the tortured and tormented writer who is being interrogated because the gruesome content of his short stories resembles murders happening in his community.

Jonathan Damare is Michal, Katurian's tortured "slow" brother.

Christin J. Prince plays Tupolski, the sadistically smiling  "good cop" in stylish high-heeled boots, and Benjamin Doughery plays Ariel, the brooding SS style "bad cop" brute.

"In the spirit of Halloween," Dougherty said, "the play is a dark comedy."

Comedy? The occasional bites of caustic humor are about as funny as a green persimmon.

There's plenty of imagery, but, mercifully, barely any visual gore.

Violence, yes. Evil, yes. Darkness, oh yes.

Hope? Those who believe hope springs eternal may be able to find a minuscule flicker — smaller than the quivering light of a candle in a jack-o-lantern's eyes — waiting to be snuffed out.

Performances of "The Pillowman" will be presented at Swamplight, 950 SW Railroad Ave., Ponchatoula, tonight and Oct. 23, 24, 30 and 31st at 7:30 p.m. with matinees this Sunday plus Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. 

Tickets are available at eventbrite.com and at the door. See pillowpeekaboo on Facebook and the_pillowman_ on Instagram.

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