A Behanding in Spokane
By Martin McDonagh
Directed by John Crowley
Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell
Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
Scenic and Costume Design: Scott Pask
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Original Music & Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA
Production Stage Manager: Frank Lombardi
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
General Management: Nina Lannan Assoc., Maggie Brohn
Technical Supervisor: Theatersmith, Inc.
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 11, 2010
If you like the quintessentially ghoulish Christopher Walken, sitting on a sleazy hotel bed in clothes that look picked from a garbage can, if you like hundreds of rubber faux hands being flung from an old trunk, if you like seeing low-lifes handcuffed to a steam pole, with gasoline and a candle lit like a bomb, if you like slow, sexual swearing and sadistic verbal abuse, and if you like to feel your skin crawl from the depths of your veins, then see Martin McDonagh’s A Behanding in Spokane at the Schoenfeld Theatre. Frankly, there were women heading for the doors, about one hour into this intermission-less torture chamber. Black humor this might have been, but witty it wasn’t.
Christopher Walken is Carmichael, who’s at the hotel for an appointment to retrieve his hand, from Toby (Anthony Mackie) and Marilyn (Zoe Kazan). None of the hands available match, and you wonder where they came from, before they’re strewn like Halloween favors, adding a nauseating twist to a ghastly production. To make matters even more bizarre, Mervyn (Sam Rockwell), the hotel manager, puts himself in the mix. The action and resolution of this meaningless maelstrom are less central to the play than the visual imagery of this small, but too memorable cast. Christopher Walken’s head looks like a snake turned inside out. He’s the very image of a very old, dark fairy tale, a human monster affixed to your space. When he speaks, he’s more Hitchcockian than Hitchcock himself. No British accent here to soften the edge.
Of the four characters, the only one who seemed trapped in the role, and deserving better, was Zoe Kazan. She had been so poignant in the 2008 revival of Chekhov’s The Seagull. I kept searching her face for glimmers of dignity, amidst this rubble, but, alas, I, too, seemed trapped. This is not a play I’d ever see again. In fact, I wouldn’t rush to another McDonagh production, no matter the Director. John Crowley made the most of the sickening scenario, and I did like A Steady Rain, which he also directed. Scott Pask’s set and costumes spoke for themselves, and Brian MacDevitt’s lighting was appropriately gloomy.
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