Theater: A Behanding in Spokane
In Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s uproarious black comedy, Christopher Walken offers a performance that is 90 minutes of sheer “off-kilter” brilliance, said Michael Kuchwara in the Associated Press.
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If you want to create a creepy play, “Christopher Walken is your main man,” said Michael Kuchwara in the Associated Press. In Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s uproarious black comedy, Walken plays Carmichael, a stringy-haired sociopath who for 47 years has been on a quest to find his left hand, which he claims was severed from his body by a gang of “hillbillies.” We meet him in a fleabag hotel, where a two-bit dope dealer named Toby (Anthony Mackie) and his girlfriend, Marilyn (Zoe Kazan), have just tried to pawn off a bogus paw on him. When Carmichael discovers the con, Walken launches into a performance that’s 90 minutes of sheer “off-kilter” brilliance.
“Onscreen, Walken’s shtick has veered into self-parody,” said Frank Scheck in The Hollywood Reporter. But the actor’s repertoire of “physical mannerisms, offbeat comic timing, and hilarious vocal inflections” actually works better in the flesh. From the moment the curtain lifts on a seedy hotel room, where Carmichael is holding Toby and Marilyn hostage, Walken proves “endlessly entertaining,” commanding laughs before he speaks a word of dialogue. Mackie and Kazan hold their own against Walken’s escalating insanity, as does Sam Rockwell, who shines as a hotel desk clerk with his own psychotic quirks.
Like Walken, playwright McDonagh relies on a signature bag of tricks, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. He packs the script with enough racial and sexual epithets to “make David Mamet flinch” and—as you might expect, given the Grand Guignol quality of earlier McDonagh works—body parts end up being “flung in the anatomical equivalent of a food fight.” Yet Behanding lacks any sort of broader theme, and John Crowley’s direction too often makes it seem like “a conventional Hollywood caper about dopey, foulmouthed crooks who keep tripping over themselves.” Walken deserves a hand, so to speak, but this production “never matches the strange genius of its star.”