If no applause is heard this evening at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, perhaps it's just the first preview audience's way of honoring playwright Martin McDonagh's macabre title: A Behanding In Spokane.
Directed by John Crowley, who previously brought McDonagh's acclaimed The Pillowman to the Great White Way five years ago, A Behanding In Spokane is officially described as follows:
Carmichael (Christopher Walken) has been searching for his missing left hand for over a quarter of a century. Enter two bickering lovebirds (Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan) with a hand to sell, and a hotel clerk (Sam Rockwell) with an aversion to gunfire, and we're set for a hilarious rollercoaster of love, hate, desperation and hope.A Behanding In Spokane marks Christopher Walken's first Broadway show since his Tony-nominated turn in James Joyce's The Dead ten years ago. No stranger to the Great White Way, Walken made his Main Stem debut as "Ken" Walken in 1952's The Climate of Eden with Rosemary Harris and was later featured in The Visit (1958) with Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt. He then performed as "Ronnie" Walken in J.B. (1959) and High Spirits (1964) before adopting his Christopher moniker for 1965's Baker Street.
In Behanding, Walken is teamed with Zoe Kazan (Come Back, Little Sheba and The Seagull) and Anthony Mackie (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Drowning Crow), both of whom have already tread Broadway's boards over the last decade, as well as with indie film star Sam Rockwell, who apart from his participation in four of The 24 Hour Plays benefits is making his real Rialto debut here.
Regular readers will know of my deep appreciation for Kazan's work. I've been a fan since her "stunning, breakthrough performance" in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie (Off-Broadway, 2006). After seeing her in 100 Saints You Should Know (Off-Broadway, 2007), I remarked, "Kazan once again demonstrates that no young stage actress delivers sassy adolescent insolence quite the way she can."
Fans of "The Hurt Locker," which has been nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture, will recognize Mackie as the tough Sgt. J.T. Sanborn, who is anxiously awaiting the end of his tour of duty. But Shakespeare in the Park aficionados will recognize this distinguished actor from his work this past summer in The Bacchae in Central Park.
As for McDonagh himself, count me among the admirers of his, er, body of work, ranging from his Cripple Of Inishmaan to "In Bruges." The man is a genius. While many of his characters get bloodied, the playwright is also known for arming many of them with his wicked, biting wit.
That's why the world premiere of his latest work -- a four-hander, if you will -- is particularly intriguing to me. If it receives anything like the praise for McDonagh's four other plays that have been produced on Broadway, expect to see lots of Tony nods for the show. The limited run of A Behanding In Spokane opens March 4 and is currently slated to close June 6, allowing just enough time for all Tony voters to see this dark comedy.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).