Give the Boy a Hand
90 minutes of climax may be too much in Second Thought Theatre's A Behanding inSpokane
The season opener for Second Thought Theatre, A Behanding in Spokane, takes the audience on a frenetic journey into the depths of a man’s obsession with finding the severed hand he lost 27 years ago. But 90 minutes of climax may prove to be too much.
The script isn’t the finest written by renowned playwright Martin McDonagh, who is also known for films such as In Bruges. Behanding moves at an erratic pace: One minute all the characters flail their arms and scream; the next, hotel clerk Mervyn delivers a five-minute monologue about zoo monkeys and high school massacres.
In this production, disapproving laughs redeem the play from a cockamamie plot that only grows more ridiculous with each twist.
In this production, director Alex Organ gives in to the show’s volatile whimsy. And the set and costume designs are nearly exact replicas of the 2010 Broadway production with Christopher Walken. Played here by Van Quattro, the lead character, Carmichael, is more of a maverick mama’s boy than a raving lunatic. By the end of the play, he grows nearly avuncular toward Mervyn (Drew Wall).
Like most McDonagh scripts, the violent overtones in Behanding carve out space for disapproving laughter. Here the folly of Toby (David Jeremiah) and Marilyn’s (Barrett Nash) attempt to con Carmichael into buying a hand they swiped from a museum provides a critical snicker. And Wall daydreaming about “giant gibberish talking pandas” earns a hearty chuckle.
In this production, those laughs redeem the play from a cockamamie plot that only grows more ridiculous with each twist. The occasional swipes at philosophizing on the human condition reveal a universal pathos. And the sometimes static scenes are punctuated with colloquial chatter.
The play’s more amusing banter comes from Wall’s Mervyn. Wall, whose talent for straight acting exceeded expectations in Second Thought’s 2011 production of Red Light Winter, seems forever typecast as the fop.
Avid theatergoers will recognize his Mervyn from Undermain Theatre’s The Dog Problem and, more recently, Kitchen Dog Theater’s production of McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane. He adds new idiosyncrasies to this character (and a remarkable mustache), but I’m ready to see him do more.
Despite their characters’ lack of rich dialogue, Jeremiah and Nash bring an incredible sense of playfulness and energy to the script. Nash’s ability to fully realize the fecklessness of her character without losing her humanity is impressive.
And there may not be another Dallas actor, particularly one with Jeremiah’s limited experience, willing to take a role further than the script demands. Here he throws himself into the action, reaching the melodious point where the musicality of his voice meets the script’s brash language.
As the 90 minutes of aggression slows to a halt, the questions inadvertently asked of the characters pile up. But the play pulls its punches and chugs along into the night.
A Behanding in Spokaneruns through January 26 at Second Thought Theatre.