REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

A Behanding in Spokane

By Martin McDonaghA behanding in Spokane

Directed by Rick Snyder

At Profiles Theatre, Chicago

Dark surreal comedy almost becomes an absurdist theatre piece

Martin McDonagh’s 2010 play, his first to be set in the USA (“small town America”), is a quite bizarre affair that totally engages us from the start much like our fixation with watching a car crash. McDonagh’s absurdist bent and his love for pitch-black humor mixed with Grand Guignol elements makes for a pulsating 90 minutes of terror-filled theatre. Weirdness, mystery, dark obsession and revenge  fill the low-life world of four distinct characters.

A Behanding in Spokane

We are at a seedy hotel in some small American city where Carmichael (Darrell W. Cox) pulls out his pistol and fires into the room’s closet as we hear a man scream. Carmichael is a bearded 40something man with a receding greasy hair black glasses and a long trench coat.  You’d think that McDonagh wrote this character for Darrell W. Cox since he so totally inhabits the one-armed man seeking revenge for having his left hand cut off by a train after a group of hillbillies. Cox is terrific as the psychopath been on revenge.

A Behanding in Spokane

When two small-time hustlers, Marilyn (Sara Greenfield0 and Toby (Levenix Riddle) try to pull a scam by telling Carmichael that they have his missing hand, Carmichael gets nasty when they bring him a black man’s hand. He chains them both to  a radiator as he travels to Toby’s house to retrieve another hand that Toby insists is really his.

Add the wacky hotel attendant, Mervyn (Eric Burgher in a terrific performance as he delivers a moving monologue) who has a fantasy wish to be a hero to someone somewhere and we have the ingredients of black humor in preposterous situations.  Life and death struggles are interrupted by call from Carmichael’s mother in Spokane as candles and gasoline are ready to erupt. This wacky tale is filled with strange humor and impossible circumstances that stretch credulity. But the mysterious and unpredictability of McDonagh’s tale keeps us on the edge of our seats. You’ll never guess what will happen next and I’ll not give away anymore details so as not to spoil things since you’ll want to see this strange but engaging dark show. Kudos to Profiles Theatre for snatching the Midwest Premiere of McDonagh’s latest work.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 21, 2011

For more info checkout the A Behanding in Spokane  page on

At Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-549-1815, tickets $35 – $40, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through December 4, 2011

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