In Fresno State’s ‘The Pillowman,’ two actors relive a friendly rivalry from high school


“The Pillowman” runs from May 5 to May 13 in the John Wright Theatre. (Courtesy of Miguel A. Gastelum)

By Brianna Thorpe, Contributor

One of the starring roles in the upcoming Fresno State production of Martin McDonagh’s “The Pillowman” is depicted by Tyler Murphy, who will be making his 14th and final Fresno State appearance.

Murphy is a graduating senior with a substantial background in acting at Fresno State. J. Daniel Herring, director of “The Pillowman,” praises him as a highly trained actor in terms of technique and role approach. “The Pillowman” is not Murphy’s first lead role. During this school year, he portrayed Leo in “4000 Miles” and Antipholus of Syracuse in “The Comedy of Errors.”

Tyler Murphy portrays Michal in “The
Pillowman.” (Courtesy of Miguel A. Gastelum)

His standby for the role of Michal is Nicco DiViccaro, who also participated in another production with Murphy in the role of Balthazar in “The Comedy of Errors.”

Herring said DiViccaro possesses a natural and innate ability to channel his roles. Despite being a freshman, he performs with the same energetic performance as Murphy.

As leading player and standby, they will be replaying a friendly-rival relationship that dates back to their high school years.

Their shared character, known only as Michal, is described as “slow to get things” due to years of parental abuse. His older brother, Katurian, who is mentally disturbed by the haunting memories of his brother’s abuse, is a short story author whose plotlines often involve horrific violence against children. Katurian is arrested on the suspicion that many of his stories shockingly resemble recent child homicides. This prompts Michal to confess to the murders, thereby implicating Katurian.

If you find yourself thinking that this has given away the entirety of the plot, you should know that it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The bulk of the play consists of narration and reenactments of many of Katurian’s short stories as the mystery unravels before the audience. The playwright, Martin McDonagh, is famed for his absurdist dark comedies.

“The particular role that they’re playing is someone who has had a situation in his life that has caused him to have some mental issues, and both Tyler and Nicco just really can bring that childlike kind of mentality,” Herring said.

“They are able to perform it in a way that’s respectful of the character who has these mental challenges.”

This isn’t the first time that Murphy and DiViccaro have worked together, as the two performed alongside each other in high school. The two previously performed in their high school rendition of “Sugar” based on the film “Some Like It Hot.”

The connection between Murphy and DiViccaro is not simply a mentor and pupil or predecessor and successor, but rather a bond shared between two young men who have been walking down the same ambiguous road of life, exploring their craft and polishing their talents together. It is a brotherhood forged from combating shared challenges.

“It’s the same relationship again. It was neat when I saw ‘The Pillowman’ cast list because I thought how perfect it was since we’ve known each other for so many years and [have] worked together. I like to think that I’m part of the reason Nicco is here. I wouldn’t consider it a passing-of-the-torch scenario because he’s already here,” Murphy said.
DiViccaro had similar things to say about Murphy.

“When I first met Tyler, I hated him. I was so jealous because he had everything I wanted. He was such a good performer, and I remember that I got to State and he was just so welcoming,” he said. “I remember all the times I would tell him ‘Oh you’re so much better than me,’ and he’d be like ‘No. No, man. We’re on the same level,’” DiViccaro added.

DiViccaro said that he feels connected to Murphy.

Nicco DiViccaro (left) portrayed Balthazar in “Comedy of Errors.”
(Courtesy of Miguel A. Gastelum)

The two have become closer than ever before, albeit for the last time in the foreseeable future, as Murphy is graduating.

The casting allows them a chance to further connect on a level that only actors may be able to grasp as they explore the mind of Michal together.

“The Pillowman” performances begin May 5 – 13 in the John Wright Theatre.

Tickets are available for purchase on the theatre website. Tickets start at $17 for general admission; $15 for Fresno State faculty, staff, alumni and military; and $10 for students.