When he was 17 years old and living in Spokane, four “hillbillies” grabbed him and, for no apparent reason, held his arm down on a railroad track. A freight train came by and amputated his hand. The hillbillies took the hand with them and used it to wave good bye.
He spent the next 47 years looking for his hand and those four hillbillies. He eventually found the hillbillies and removed their faces, but he could never find his hand. He knew it was folly to look for it—it couldn’t be reattached—but it was his and he wanted it back.
Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
A girl and a boy, young street hustlers, said they know where his hand is. They want $500 for it. The three meet in a seedy hotel room to exchange the cash for the hand.
This, believe it or not, is a comedy. And a damn funny one, at that.
Irish genius playwright and lunatic Martin McDonagh’s new play is A Behanding in Spokane. The four actors are all fine but Christopher Walken gives one of the most enjoyable performances I’ve ever seen. Ever. The play really comes alive when he’s on stage. When he delivers his lines, with his wonderful invented cadence, you hang on and absorb every word. His comedic timing is impeccable, but he can switch to sinister in a split second. Towards the end of the play there’s a dialog between Sam Rockwell and Walken (Walken pointing a gun at Rockwell) that works so beautifully that I wish I could sit through it again.
The play unfolds in real time. It’s an interesting device that I can’t recall ever seeing before. What other play has done that? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Like all of McDonagh’s plays, this isn’t for the general masses. It’s violent and profane and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but there are a few people I’d love to drag in to see this. [Mr. Jimmy, consider this an open invitation if you and Mrs. Hen happen to be in town. My treat.]
I saw McDonaugh’s last play, The Pillowman, which is also a black comedy. That one is about a child murderer and torture. The audience was filled with unsuspecting innocents who hadn’t done their homework. It starred Billy Crudup and Jeff Goldblum and I think a lot of tourists thought it would be a big thrill to see some movie stars in a play. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they exited the theater. They looked like they just got mugged. Not all theater is sissy stuff.