Cygnet Theatre’s quirky Behanding in Spokane keeps audiences riveted


By Diana Saenger

Let’s Review!

Try to explain the plot of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s “A Behanding In Spokane,” and eyes will roll. The Southern California premiere at Old Town’s Cygnet Theatre through Feb.19, comes on the heels of the Broadway production – starring Christopher Walken – that drew raves. Like other McDonagh plays, “A Behanding in Spokane” is quirky, full of violence, dark humor, and much profanity.

Four characters inhabit the story that starts off with Carmichael (Jeffrey Jones), a perplexed man sitting on a bed in a seedy hotel room. His missing hand is evident as he stares into the audience for several minutes. A loud thump from the stand-up closet disturbs Carmichael until he walks over, opens the door and fires a gun inside.

Moments later, an oddball hotel clerk name Mervyn, knocks on the door insisting he heard a gunshot from the room. He informs Carmichael that he doesn’t buy his story of a car backfiring, and begins to question him. When this clearly irritates Carmichael, even the clerk knows better than to hang around. After Carmichael makes a phone call to check on his mother, there are louder thumps from the closet door.

Meryvn (Mike Sears) has returned accompanied by an anxiety-ridden young woman who claims to be Marilyn, the girlfriend of Toby, who is missing. She hurls insults and profanity at Carmichael and insists Mervyn do something about the situation. Soon Toby is dragged out of the closet with a bleeding scratch on his head from a bullet grazing him.

Mervyn hears several sides of the story. Carmichael reveals the gruesome facts of how he lost his hand some 20 years ago, and these two scam artists supposedly knew where it was and went to retrieve it for him at the cost of $500. The dark shriveled-up hand presented, of course, was not his, so Carmichael’s wrath is now unleashed.

As the story moves on, Carmichael once again decides to trust the lovebirds and takes off on a wild goose chase, but for insurance, he leaves a lit candle in a gas can on top of the bed and out of their reach — hopefully, he will be back in time to save them.

Looking like a much-too-old Boy Scout lost in the Alps, Mervyn reasons with half a brain, but somewhere those thoughts jump on the wrong train. Or maybe that’s his ploy to take control of the situation. Sears (“To Have and To Hold”) is excellent in every laughable beat of his character.

Vimel (“Storyville”) does a great job as the totally inept crook who spouts McDonagh’s rapid dialogue like a fountain in Balboa Park. Jones (“Burn This”) makes easy work of his character, infusing Carmichael with a menacing personality that is the perfect escort to his eccentric behaviors. Like carrying a suitcase full of … well I can’t reveal that. Iversen, often a little over the top, helps keep the action full of surprises.

If you go


‘A Behanding in Spokane’


Matinees, evenings to Feb. 19


Cygnet Theatre Company, Old Town Stage, 4040 Twiggs St., San Diego



Box Office:

(619) 337-1525,