With their latest production, A Behanding in Spokane, Fells Point Corner Theatre is presenting one of the funniest and most perverse voices in modern drama.
Author Martin McDonagh, already famous for his twisted dark comedies (The Pillowman, The Cripple of Inishmaan) and films (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths), has crafted his first American drama and offers up a biting and hilarious take on Midwestern ideals. The action centers around Mr. Carmichael (Jeff Murray), a racist, one-handed, revolver-toting vigilante and mama’s boy who has spent his adult life trying to track down his lost appendage. In this respect, McDonagh makes direct reference to Western epics, but the grand frontier has been replaced by a landscape of small-time drug dealers and seedy motels. To be sure, the premise is nothing short of absurd, but the layering of plot-twists and accidental confessions is wicked and meticulous.
…McDonagh throws the audience head first into an eccentric, disturbing, and hilariously rigged world of obsession and revenge.
The writing aside, Murray’s nuanced and engaging performance is the backbone of this production. He has both a precise sense of comic timing and a full embrace of the character’s violent compulsions; his phone conversations with his mother are the highlights of the show. The supporting cast is slightly less believable. Mervyn, the hotel receptionist (Eric Stein) has his funny and endearing moments, especially during his show-stopping soliloquy, but is unnaturally loud and seems oddly unchanged by extraordinary events. Meanwhile, the young, “hand-dealing” couple (Mike Smith and Emily Sucher) tend to lack both chemistry and urgency in their high-stakes situation. That said, the entire cast warms up over the course of the evening, and the play finishes on a strong note.
The set design (Mark Steckbeck) is quite impressive, with subtle nods to icons of Americana; the color pallet cleverly matches that of the Hopper paintings on the hotel walls. The big band sound cues have a similar effect—conjuring an image of America that no longer exists. The young couple’s costumes (Howard Berkowitz) seem rather nice—given their financial situation—but Mervyn and Carmichael’s outfits are well-suited to their characters.
Overall, Behanding is an amusing and bizarre affair; McDonagh throws the audience head first into an eccentric, disturbing, and hilariously rigged world of obsession and revenge.
Running Time: 95 minutes, with no intermission.
A Behanding in Spokane runs through November 4, 2012 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 South Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets click here or call 410-276-7837.