A dark comedy in Dillon provokes some uneasy feelings
May 10, 2012
Lake Dillon Theatre Company artistic director Christopher Alleman and LDTC executive director Josh Blanchard saw the production of “A Behanding in Spokane” in New York two years ago and knew immediately they wanted to do the show. It debuted in 2010 at the Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway.
“We had two thoughts,” said Alleman. “We can do this show, and, should we do this show.” When the play ran on Broadway, it drew attention not only for the fact that it featured just four actors in one set (a grimy Spokane, Wash., motel), but also for its dramatic interactions full of cursing and nonsensical rants. It starred Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell and received critical acclaim.
For the LDTC production, no adaptations or alterations were made to the script. “Martin McDonagh has written a bitingly funny comedy,” said Alleman. “But the play also gives us the tools and opportunity to talk about language in theatre and explore the cultural impacts and changes.”
McDonagh is a bawdy Irish playwright and the author of the acclaimed “The Pillowman,” a 2003 play that won a number of theater awards. “A Behanding in Spokane” is his first American-set play, a daring, dark comedy purposefully crafted to impress, repulse, and offend. But it was primarily written to entertain and draw laughter, on which it hits the mark.
“Anything we do has the possibility of offending someone. There is no way around that,” Alleman said. “Theater is first and foremost entertainment. But if we have the opportunity to enlighten or engage, we should move on that chance. This is an opportunity to do both.”
When the curtains open on our main character, Carmichael, he has been searching for his missing left hand for 27 years, which he claims to have lost to bullies as a child. He arrives in modern-day Spokane to a cheap high-rise motel where he is in the middle of a sketchy hand buy.
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The case includes two pot-dealing quarrelsome lovers and an ex-speed head receptionist, and the four of them together weave a tale of mystery, self-exploration, desperation and hope. The play is suspenseful, action packed and guaranteed to provoke laughter, if not just provoke.
The cast includes Christopher Flowers and Lauren Norvidg as the hand-dealing couple, Joel Rainwater as the receptionist and Alleman as Carmichael.
In conjunction with the performance, the theater is producing two panel discussions surrounding language in theater on Sunday, May 20 and Sunday, June 3 at 4 p.m. Language in Theater panelists include: John Moore (former Denver Post Critic), Christy Montour-Larson (Producer, Curious Theatre Company), Alex Miller (playwright and Managing Editor, Summit Daily News), Christopher Alleman (artistic airector, LDTC) and Joshua Blanchard (Director, A Behanding in Spokane and executive director, LDTC).
In addition to the panel discussions, all playgoers are invited to join the LDTC cast and management 25 minutes before each show for the prologue, where a member of the staff will host a five to 10 minute discussion and offer background information and interesting discussion topics about the show.
After the show, an epilogue will be held to discuss the production, process, and content with the cast and a crew of show. This 15-minute session gives audience a chance to ask questions and interact with the cast.
“The prologue allows staff the opportunity to talk with the audience regarding themes, historical context, and interesting facts about the show they are about to see,” said Alleman. “We have been doing those for over two years. The epilogue is a talk back with the cast and artistic team. It’s an opportunity for the audience to talk with the company about this particular production.”
Patrons are encouraged to see the play before attending the panel discussion. “We thought the panel discussions would be more informative if the participants have had an opportunity to see the production first,” said Alleman. “It will lead to a more lively discussion.”
The play is rated M for mature, meaning it contains strong language and mature themes and is not recommended for all audiences. And while the performance is certainly full of expletives, the cursing doesn’t run away with the show. In fact, it helps give it a contemporary context and makes the characters more believable in their shadiness. And in the end, it is the quality of the acting and their renditions of the play’s fascinating soliloquies that run away with the show.