A Behanding in Spokane

Dennis Creaghan gives a real performance in Martin McDonagh's confection of a noire play, A Behanding in Spokane. (Yes, “Behanding”.) When Creaghan is on stage, he dominates it. And why shouldn't he – his Carmichael has the gun, he has the lines, he has the presence, even if he doesn't have a hand.

Normally I'd tell you a bit about the story and how this disparate crew happened to end up in a seedy hotel room, but I think that would spoil the experience.

And you might want to have the experience: The GablesStage does this slightly underweight script proud. Set designer Lyle Baskin's hotel room is straight out of the pulps, and perfect for the story. The three other characters mostly exist to play off Creaghan's Irish-American Ahab, and they do it well. Mervyn the bellhop (Erik Fabregat) gets a soliloquy and some nice to-and-fro with the other characters, until the script lets him down a bit at the end. The poor actors who have to play the young couple who ensnare themselves in Carmichael's one-handed madness pretty much do the best they can with what they're given, but Marckenson Charles, who plays Toby, seemed to fade in and out of his misfortunate character while Jackie Rivera's Marilyn was a little one-noteish. It doesn't matter.

Is this the greatest play of the year? No. It's not in the same class as some of GableStage's recent plays, such as Speed-the-Plow, the play that convinced us to become subscribers. But A Behanding in Spokane is a fun 90-minute-without-intermission romp, and even if the ending is a little too pat for my taste, it's worth seeing if you like the theater.

Adult tickets run from $35-$42 depending on what night and whether you qualify for a senior citizen discount. The Friday I attended there were plenty of empty seats in the small theater, and it looked as if most attendees had gotten that discount. That's a shame. The GablesStage is a local treasure, and director Joseph Adler has good, if sometimes slightly strange, taste and guts.

Student tickets are only $15, people, and the theater, located in the Biltmore, is just up the street. Go for it. (Note: the show ends this weekend; I wrote this review just after seeing the play a couple of weeks ago, then emailed the theater asking for a still to illustrate the review. They never replied. Oh well.)

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