Kevin Lawler says playwright Martin McDonagh’s “A Behanding in Spokane” is like a roller coaster ride for the audience.
“Once the audience gets on that ride, you have to keep it moving the entire time,” said Lawler, who’s directing the play at the Blue Barn Theatre. “We’re all working to keep that kind of tension in the entire experience.”
“A Behanding in Spokane” opens tonight. Lawler says it’s great, dark comedy. Susan Clement-Toberer, the Blue Barn’s artistic director, chose the play.
“I love McDonagh, love his writing,” she said last week. “The risks he takes and the quirks in the writing are just brilliant in their ability to make us laugh at one sentence, then in the next moment make us wish we hadn’t. It’s a wild ride.”
The 2010 play centers on Carmichael, a racist backwoods sociopath who has been searching 27 years for the hand he lost. Marilyn and Toby, a couple of dim-bulb con artists, think he’s an easy mark. And the hotel clerk, Mervyn, has a serious aversion to gunfire.
The play contains profanity, violence and the bantering about of the N-word.
What is McDonagh after here? Lawler said it’s hard to articulate.
“He’s writing about four desperate people doing stupid things to each other,” Lawler said. “He delves into the hearts of people who are in a very dark place, a place that is not coming from the center of society, the normal center.”
In the process, Lawler said, McDonagh reveals to us aspects of ourselves that we don’t normally look at.
“If you look for a message, you’re going to frustrate yourself,” said Thomas Becker, who plays Carmichael. “He does have something to say. I don’t know that it can be put into words. But I often think it’s about the world we live in, a dark, difficult, frustrating place at times — and a place that turns out some very disturbing people.”
Absurdity and violence, Becker said, can make you laugh at things you didn’t know you could laugh at.
Clement-Toberer said McDonagh is all about the ride he takes you on, and how you don’t know where it’s going to take you.
“But you’ll be entertained and provoked in ways you’ve never been before,” she said. “I love that the Blue Barn has been doing this style of theater for 24 seasons, and our audience can’t get enough.”
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