About three years ago, I got the chance to see Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell star in A Behanding in Spokane. Watching the show in NYC, I was more starstruck than anything.
Last night, I got to see the play again in Salt Lake City. This time, I was able to process the work itself, and not just the performances. Martin McDonagh is known for his over the top characters from Ireland. This is his first experiment writing for Americans. And again, it's over the top. The situations are ridiculous to the outside observer. And yet, they seem far more real than "reality tv". He is unapologetic with his characters. The facts of racism, deceit, drug dealing, men who love going to the zoo--all of these things are just a part of the landscape of the American people--and despite our reluctancy to see ourselves through such an unflattering lens--it is a far more realistic lens than what's on television. Right now, I've got Lifetime's The Client List playing in the background. Cause when a woman's husband leaves her, it's completely realistic that she would find a lovable pimp at a massage parlor where she can now give happy endings to a line up of absolutely gorgeous shirtless men and pay the mortgage on her beautiful home--but I digress.
This is a play about a man with a suitcase full of hands. It's a completely ridiculous set up. But the characters are grounded in the kind of reality borne of "You can't make this stuff up!" situations that we all experience more often than not.
So how did this production compare?
It did well. The set was great. The space is divine. I love simple. I love black box. Kudos to director Sam McGinnis V and stage manager Elise Hanson.
A fantastical story like this one relies heavily on the performances of the actors. And the acting was superb--but there were small moments where you could see the actors thinking--"This is too far. This isn't real. The audience won't buy this moment." It was fleeting--but when you're playing these kinds of extremes, you have to believe in those extremes. The only actor who didn't have that fleeting moment was Jared Greathouse. To his credit, he absolutely believed in and played his character's lunacy to the hilt.
I loved Lonzo Liggins speech to his girlfriend, Tiffany Greathouse's character--(color me lazy, I have no desire to look up their character names right now...) about how inappropriate it was to call out the madman on his racial slurs. Tiffany Greathouse was fantastic at exploring all the different tactics for escape. She unabashedly sailed from one strategy to the next. And Jeffrey Owen was hilarious--especially during a particularly long conversation with his mother. I was impressed. I will say, there were moments where I felt the actor was making too much of an effort to be cool. It is difficult to describe, but as the actor allowed the character's idiosyncrasies to undo the "cool", he became more and more endearing to me.
Jared Greathouse's performance was my favorite though. As the night progressed--he allowed himself to relax physically into some hilarious choices.
I am so pleased to be in Salt Lake City today and a part of this amazing theatrical community. This was my first experience seeing a production by The Hive. I look forward to their productions in the future.
The show plays this week at The Sugar Shack 616 E. Wilmington Ave, Salt Lake City on Friday and Saturday night--May 10 and 11 at 8pm. The cost at the door is $12--well worth the price of admission. Visit www.thehivetheatre.blogspot.com for more information.