Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Go See A Play

by Nathan Wonder

Martin McDonagh, A Behanding in Spokane

Go see a play.

I recommend seeing a good play. This can be difficult.

If you are in New York, I recommend you see Martin McDonagh's A Behanding in Spokane.

"The play is incredibly funny and it’s really dark and it turns in unexpected ways all the time. I think it’s the most surprising comedy I’ve ever read." Zoe Kazan

McDonagh's new dark comedy runs 90 minutes with no intermission, and the play’s comedic and macabre energies, filled with foul language, racism, and violence, propel the audience into a world only he can create.

“It’s not a world I’m completely familiar with and I get a kick out of it.” Edie Falco

McDonagh has had four of his plays nominated for Tony Awards in the Best Play category, notably The Pillowman and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. He is also the writer and director of the film In Bruges which was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Screenplay category.

“Any time Martin has a play on in New York it is an event.” Zoe Kazan
A Behanding in Spokane, Christopher Walken, Anthony Mackie, Zoe Kazan

The play had a lot of buzz because of the star-driven cast and the pedigree of the playwright. Christopher Walken, who plays Carmichael, is an American acting legend still at the top of his game. Mervyn is played by Sam Rockwell, whose film credits include Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Frost/Nixon, The Green Mile, and many more while his theatrical credits are even more impressive. Zoe Kazan plays Marilyn. The granddaughter of Elia Kazan, she has made an impressive career for herself both on the big screen in It’s Complicated and as a stage actress and playwright. As Toby, this is Anthony Mackie’s fourth time on Broadway, and his film credits include The Hurt Locker, 8 Mile, and Freedomland.

”From my standpoint it’s about a guy who had his hand chopped off by some villains when he was a teenager and he’s spent the rest of his life looking for his hand.” Chrisopher Walken

The four character play stars Walken as a one-handed man. He encounters a pair of naive con artists who try to sell him what they claim is his hand. Rockwell plays Mervyn, the caretaker of the hotel.

“I’ve never been in a play that got this kind of reaction: the roaring laughter of the crowd and the ovations, it’s just intense to be up there. It’s great I mean we are putting out a lot of energy and we are getting it all back.” Zoe Kazan

The play is thoroughly entertaining with many moments that cause the audience to both laugh and shriek at the same time. It is a tightly-woven story that keeps the audience on edge, always wondering what could possibly happen next.

The play is not without its faults, though. There are a few lines that seem to be written purely for their surface joke value, as noted in the New York Times review by Ben Brantley: “Poor Mr. Mackie is required to describe the hotel room as ‘Hand Central Station.’” Brantley also feels the two con artists are written poorly, as though they are characters from a “Hollywood caper comedy about dopey, foul-mouthed crooks who keep tripping over themselves.” I never felt any of the characters became that broad, but the actors did seem to get lost in the wake of Walken’s “fabled eccentricity” as Brantley puts it.

A Behanding in Spokane, Christopher Walken
“[With] Christopher Walken every day is new, every day is fresh. He’s truly a gem of the acting community.” Anthony Mackie

This is some of Christopher Walken’s finest work. Simultaneously familiar and revelatory, his charismatic creepiness is perfect for the role, which feels as though it was written specifically for Walken’s idiosyncratic line readings (surprisingly, he was actually the last actor cast). From the opening moment with Carmichael sitting alone on the dingy hotel bed staring into space all the way to the final curtain, whenever he is on stage he is a commanding presence. He plays the character with incredible ease and complexity; nothing Carmichael does is either expected or unbelievable. Perhaps the Times reviewer puts it best with: “[Mr. Walken’s] use of his signature arsenal of stylistic oddities has seldom been more enthralling.”

A Behanding in Spokane, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell

The rest of the cast, playing around Walken’s eeriness, serve primarily as foils. Carmichael wants desperately to find his missing hand while Mervyn has no idea what he wants. Carmichael’s energy is a black hole, while the con artists are abuzz with youthful vigor.

“This play is a true broadway experience. It’s a true theatre experience.” Anthony Mackie

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget Moon. Rockwell was amazing in Moon. He was the whole show.