“A Behanding in Spokane” presented by Baseball For Dinner-Theatre
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The day began like any other.
I didn’t have to work,
I didn’t have to set an alarm,
I slept in until one pm.
I don’t like to sleep in, but everytime I have a day off my dreams seem to get more exciting, and I often wake up in a haze and go back to sleep to continue fighting zombies, or flying through space, or both.
I finally awoke to a call from my old college chum Evan, who I don’t get to see nearly enough. He was on spring break and looking for something to do.
I met up with him in the East Village. The day was drab and wet but we were in high spirits.
It was then that Evan rocked my world.
Rocked is harder then the Red Hot Chilil Peppers before Anthony Keitis gave up heroin and decided to actually sing instead.
Even presented me with two tickets to a performance of “A Behanding in Spokane.”
I’d never heard of it.
Then Evan explained “Behanding” was the new play by Martin McDonnah,
Whom I love (platonically)
Starring Sam Rockwell.
Whom I love (platonically)
and Christopher Walken
Who is my fucking hero. (platonically)
I was introduced to Martin McDonnah in college during my Intermediate and Advanced Playwrighting workshops.
My professor, Prof. Mullen, loved McDonnah because of his expert use of subtext.
In playwrighting, you can only tell your story with dialouge, so a mastery of subtext is essential.
PLAY WITH SUBTEXT
Man – Every time I see that cherry tree-
Woman – Stop.
Man – Every time I bake pie-
Woman – I can’t-
Man – Feeling those red cherries squeeze between my fingers-
Women – I’m going to be sick.
SAME PLAY WITHOUT SUBTEXT
Man – Remember that time our son died because he fell out of that cherry tree he loved so much that I wanted to chop down but you insisted on leaving alone? HUH BITCH? DO YOU REMEMBER THAT!
Woman – I FEEL SO GUILTY AND I’M SEEING SOMEONE ELSE!
The difference is subtle, but important.
Greater than my excitement for seeing a Martin McDonnah play, however, was seeing Christopher Walken on-stage.
I first saw Chris in ” A View to a Kill ” during my childhood James Bond obsession and became a lifelong fan.
Evan and I, after putting ourselves in the proper mindset, were seated in the box seats of the Theatre waiting for the play to start. I drained my twelve dollar, spill-proof sippy cup of Budweiser and almost wet myself with anticipation.
House lights down. Curtain Up.
There he is.
Christopher Walken himself, crazy hair greased back, long trench coat draped over his shoulders.
He continues staring forward as the uproarious audience applause dies down.
The set is a picture perfect dingy NY hotel room. Water stains cover the stucco ceiling and a thick Magnavox television is welded into a steel cage and grafted above a mirror in the room’s corner.
The closet doors begin to rattle. There is someone in the closet. They do not want to be there.
Christ stands up. There is a gun in his right hand.
He has no left hand.
A “behanding” has taken place, you see.
Crossing to the closet, Chris pops it open with his stump and fires his pistol at whoever is strugling inside.
They cease to struggle.
Rosco recently informed me that Chris Walken was seeking “normal, family roles,” when his Agent brought him the role in Behanding.
IF you find a handless man with a suitcase full of severed hands normal, then Chris Walken’s character is just like any other Joe-Schumkatelly.
Years ago, hillbillys stole Chris Walken’s hand by placing it onto tracks in the path of an oncoming train.
Sam Rockwell asks, later in the play, if the hillbilly’s were black.
“You can’t find black hillbillys.”
And the way that Chris Walken said that line, with his patent pending perfect pauses and inflections, was hilarious.
Chris’ handling of his stump of a hand was equally impressive. Like any real amputee, he used his stump to its greatest capacity.
During one scene he uses it to cradle a beige, dial-tone telephone while he talks to his mother about the porno mags she found in his trunk.
Sam Rockwell also bears mention as the spaced-out receptionist of the hotel, Mervyn. A character as lost as Mervyn can be really fucking annoying if not played coreectly, but Sam Rockwell is a pro of playing deeply flawed characters that you can’t help but identify with.
His best moment came, about a third of the way through the show, when the curtain closed on the action in the hotel room and he stepped out before the audience for a rambling, stream-of-conscious monologue that covered everything from his love for zoo Gibbons to his adolescent fantasies of wishing a school shooting would’ve happened in his hometown so he could’ve been a hero.
Right before Sam started this monologue, he noticed a severed hand sitting beside him on the stage.
Just before the curtain closed for his big speech, a suitcase full of severed hands was unleashed onto the floor and one stray appendage had flopped past the fourth wall and landed onto the lip of the stage.
Sam frowned, prodded the hand with his toe, then began his monologue. Such is the beauty of theatre. If there is a severed hand sitting next to you, for whatever reason, you’d better fucking acknowledge that there is a severed hand next to you. (unless it was thrown from the audience, and is real.)
The other two members of the cast, Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan playing two small time drug dealers in way over their heads, seemed like they were in a different play.
While Chris and Sam somehow made their outrageous characters empathetic and honest, Mackie and Kazan were in a constant state of high-comedy antics. Considering their characters were, at one point, being covered in gasoline by an enraged Christopher Walken, a level of panic is expected from them. But after the fifth or sixth monologue from Mackie where his vocal level was at a constant 10 it became exhausting.
In a different play, Mackie and Kazan would have been fine but in “Beheading,” especially compared with Chris and Sam’s performances, the Mackie and Kazan just rang false.
In the end, “A Behanding in Spokane” was worth seeing and, for me at least, was a landmark occasion where, for the first time, I got to see live one of the actors that inspired me to pursue the profession in the first place.
I give A Behanding in Spokane three-and-a-half severed hands out of four.