Theater Schmeater Takes on McDonagh’s Brutal “Behanding in Spokane”

Hannah Mootz, Corey Spruill, and Brandon Ryan in A Behanding in Spokane (Photo: D Hastings)
Hannah Mootz, Corey Spruill, and Brandon Ryan in A Behanding in Spokane (Photo: D Hastings)

Published at The Sunbreak on February 14. 

What would you do to have an appendage returned? Would you kill for it? Would you keep appendages belonging to other people in your suitcase as a growing reminder that there are millions of missing limbs in the world, and none of them are yours? These are the questions posed by Theater Schmeater‘s A Behanding in Spokane (through February 23; tickets). And when I say “posed” I actually mean hacked-away-by-train.

Martin McDonagh’s play looks at a roughneck, racist desperately trying to find his hand that a group of redneck hooligans heartlessly removed via an oncoming train many years previous. Obviously, it’s a comedy, if you like your comedy in McDonagh style with macabre sensibilities.

Directed by Peggy Gannon, A Behanding in Spokane is uncomfortable and delightful, much like reading internet comments or spending time on Reddit. Gordon Carpenter as the handless Carmichael is low and fierce, with a sick determination to blow people up and reclaim what’s rightfully his. (Having once interrogated my sisters over a missing a shoe, I completely understand his ferocity and pyromania.)

Hannah Mootz and Corey Spruill as the out-of-their-element couple plotting to scam Carmichael (with a hand that’s clearly not his) have that just-awkward-enough chemistry to believe they’d try to pull a fast on a psychotic person. (Silly you.) Brandon Ryan’s portrayal of the hotel receptionist, Mervyn, who just wants to be the hero (albeit,  for the wrong reasons), continually fails at barely being a stand-up guy making him fantastically creepy throughout.

And though I’m loath to be that  person who quotes the director’s note, I really enjoyed Gannon’s comments (dare I say, defense?) on comedy in the program: “In tragedy, people die; but in comedy, they have to go on living. Dude. That’s some serious shit.” Yes. Yes, it is.

Typical McDonagh, no one’s the hero, everyone’s stupid, and it’s always too soon (and yet, not too soon) to make Columbine references. In the course of an evening, A Behanding in Spokane delivered cringes, chuckles, guffaws, and at least one “Ew.” And yes, it’s the perfect date for that romantic, hand-seeker in you. One hand up. Or, something.

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