Martin McDonagh’s “A Behanding in Spokane,” first opened in 2010 on Broadway, where it won a Tony award for Christopher Walken in the lead role. Born in 1970, McDonagh has been called the most important living playwright in Ireland. His Irish trilogies have won scads of international awards, but it doesn’t surprise me that “Behanding” only got Walken an award. It’s his first play to be set in the United States, and it continues McDonagh’s famously absurdist, dark humor and satiric skewering of human behavior, but it’s light on any deeper meaning, making it appear more of an exercise from a Quentin Tarantino cum Coen Brothers wannabe.
Venice Theatre’s production is in keeping with McDonagh’s intent, and John Michael Andzulis’s scenic/lighting design delivers a sufficiently sleazy set to impart the low-life ambience. Kelly Wynn Woodland directs the macabre tale of a man in search of his severed hand who, besides being violent, vengeful and obsessed, has a twisted relationship with his mother whom we come to know through her phone calls. Steven O’Dea, as Carmichael, imparts irony, as well as menace and unpredictability, which enhances the main character’s interest. Jeremy Guerrero is especially effective as Mervyn, the “receptionist guy,” a leering, opportunistic aficionado of evil, who delivers a monologue in which he contemplates his relish of playing the hero in a school massacre.
McDonagh’s specialty lays in his outrageously racist, sexist language and complete disregard of anything remotely “PC.” Kristofer Geddie, as Toby, displays his mastery of the “MF” word and many others to a ridiculous extent, and creates the bulk of the blatant comedy on the play, although he hasn’t quite mastered sniveling to the same degree. Alison Prouty is also funny, but lacks nuance in her portrayal of Toby’s girlfriend, Marilyn, who is a tad low on the IQ scale.
The show is darkly appealing and twisted enough to keep the audience in its seat without a break for 90 minutes. It was interesting to get a glimpse of what this much-lauded playwright is all about, but it left me wishing it had been one of his better, earlier works.
IF YOU GO
“A Behanding in Spokane” runs through April 28, at Venice Theatre. For more information, call 488-1115.
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