Wednesday, May 22, 2019
‘A Behanding in Spokane’ as Bizarre As It Sounds
“A Behanding in Spokane” touches on reclaiming what’s yours in a world that doesn’t seem to care.
Friday, November 30, 2018


It’s not “My Fair Lady.” But “A Behanding in Spokane” does have something in common with “My Fair Lady.”

“ ‘My Fair Lady’ is escapism. ‘A Behanding’ is escapism, as well, but in a different way,” said Brett Moellenberg, who is directing the Idaho premiere of the dark comedy Tuesday through Saturday for The Spot.

“When we’re in theater, you do ‘My Fair Lady,’ added actor Thaddeus McCants. “This is so exciting because it’s not ‘My Fair Lady.’ ”

Kevin Wade, right, appeared in "The Pillowman" and returns to play the nosy hotel clerk in "A Behanding in Spokane."

Indeed, while “My Fair Lady” is sweet and predictable, “A Behanding in Spokane” is vulgar, violent and wildly unpredictable. And that’s the beauty of it, said Moellenberg.

“We’ve been wanting to do it for a long time because it’s exciting theater. You don’t get to do a lot of plays like this, and audiences don’t get a chance to see a lot of plays like this,” he said.

The play by Academy Award-winning writer and Irish playwright Martin McDonagh revolves around a one-handed man named Carmichael on a quest to find the missing hand that he lost as a youth. A drug dealer named Toby and his white trash girlfriend show up at the seedy hotel bedroom where he’s hanging out, confident that they can make a quick buck by giving him what they say is his hand.

But—uh oh—the color of the hand they say is his doesn’t match.

They have not an inkling of the dangerous, sadistic, unpredictable guy they’re dealing with. And it doesn’t help that Toby is African American while Carmichael was raised as a white supremacist.

The plot only thickens thanks to the creepy hotel receptionist named Mervyn who has reason to be particularly interested in Toby.

The Spot went online to get New York actor Nick Hardin to play the part of Carmichael. McCants, who appeared in The Spot’s “Angels in America,” plays Toby. Founding members Yanna Lantz and Kevin Wade portray the scam artist’s girlfriend and the hotel clerk.

McDonagh is known for his black comedies. The Spot presented his play “The Pillowman,” which examines such questions as whether artists should be penalized for work that inspires dastardly acts . And nexStage Theatre presented play readings of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” McDonagh is perhaps best known for his movie scripts, which include “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths.”

“Martin McDonagh offers us an opportunity to see characters make choices that aren’t rational or logical. Consequently some of those things that happen are crazy and to us that’s exciting,” said Moellenberg. “It’s like going to the state fair to try deep fried Oreos. Why would we do that? Because we want the experience.”

“He stretches humanity so far that audiences end up choosing sides,” added McCants. “And he’s allowed to discuss things others can’t because his plays are so absurd.”

Most of The Spots founders saw the play when it debuted on Broadway in 2010, and they’ve been wanting to stage it since.

Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor for his role in it. But McDonagh was criticized as a non-American casting the United States in shallow light. And he was criticized for creating “dopey” characters that resemble those in a Hollywood caper as they keep tripping over themselves.

“People felt it wasn’t a good reflection of America coming from an Irish playwright,” Moellenberg said..

But he can be forgiven, as Brits and Irish spend their time watching those sorts of movies, said Hardin, who has lived in Ireland.

The dialogue the characters spew may make viewers cringe. The play makes ample use of the N word, the MF word and the F word as it refers to gay people. It even uses the R word for mentally challenged.

But, said McCants, “If you allow yourself to get on the ride and enjoy, you will be exposed to things wouldn’t have imagined.”

McCants says the play fits in line with The Spot’s desire to present plays that are a little more edgy than those viewers might see elsewhere in the Sun Valley area. And, he says, while their plays are not for everyone The Spot has developed a loyal following.

Audiences even stayed after “The Pillowman” for chats with the cast and crew.

“When I came here to appear in ‘Angels in America,’ I wondered how people would react. They were overwhelmingly appreciative,” he said.

Moellenberg thinks viewers will like “A Behanding,” if they give it a chance.

“If we do it right, it will be very funny,” he said. “McDonagh does an amazing job of interlocking comedy and violence with poignant and heavy themes.”

Added Hardin: “It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make you think. And it may even make you gasp.”


What: “A Behanding in Spokane” by Martin McDonagh

When: Tuesday-Saturday Dec. 4-8. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4-8 with a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 8.

Where: The Spot at 220 Lewis St., No. 2 in Ketchum.

Tickets: $25 for adults and $13 for those under 30 years old, available at


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