Irish verses American! The Irish are storytellers. They enjoy a pub yarn that is 8 Guinness long. Americans are a 140-character nation. They want a story that can be told in a shot.
Profile Theatre presents BEHANDING IN SPOKANE. This 2010 creation marks award-winning Playwright Martin McDonagh’s first play set on American soil. A mysterious man checks into a seedy motel. He’s missing something. His hand! He lost it decades ago in a violent act. A young couple insist they have it. And for $500, he can have it back. Negotiations backfire and the noisy motel receptionist investigates. Who’s got hand now? BEHANDING IN SPOKANE is a quirky dark comedy.
As an Irish-American, I go both ways. I enjoy good writing whether it’s a long tale or a short tweet. BEHANDING IN SPOKANE is Playwright Martin McDonagh Americanized. McDonagh’s traditional plays introduce ordinary Irish folk. As the story goes their twisted peculiarities are eventually revealed. In BEHANDING, the unorthodox characters are at the door. There’s no slow build-up. It’s immediately apparent, hand down, this is a bizarre story.
In a completely dark theatre, it starts with the escalating volume of a train followed by a flicker of light. It’s a dramatic entrance for Darrell W. Cox (Carmichael). At least, I think it’s Cox. Glasses, bushy beard, long greasy hair and baggy clothes render Cox unrecognizable. His signature drawl helps me identify him. Under the direction of Rick Snyder, Cox finds the intensity and the humor in this complex man. One-sided phone conversations and brokering a single-hand deal, Cox has contrasting edginess. Bringing the creepy vibe, Eric Burgher (Mervyn) is hilarious. An obtuse Burgher invades personal space and conversations. Sara Greenfield (Marilyn) and Levenix Riddle (Toby) are the bickering inept arms dealers. Behind their loving zaniness, Greenfield and Riddle bring the fright. They are scared. But the audience isn’t.
There is something missing. Where’s the disturbing McDonagh hallmark?! Except for the woman beside me who jumped when someone entered the room unexpectedly, there’s no fear factor. There are surprises but no shockers. Instead of interesting Irish folk with deep, dark secrets, McDonagh depicts Americans as blundering weirdos. It works as a dark comedy and BEHANDING IN SPOKANE certainly entertains. The Irish side of me gives it one thumb up... something is missing. The American in me recognizes a good hand when its dealt.
This being his third McDonagh play this year, Rick describes it with 'one hand clapping.'
Running Time: Ninety minutes with no intermission.
At Profiles Theatre, 4146 N. Broadway
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Rick Snyder
Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm
Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
Thru December 4th
Production photograph courtesy of Wayne Karl.