When playwright Martin McDonagh set pen to paper for the dirty-mouthed comedy A Behanding in Spokane, he likely began with a character. That character was an old, hard man a man from whom something had been taken and who meant to rectify the injustice. He was a man whose woundedness had caused many more wounds far more dire than his own. He was blind to the wrongs committed in his quest for vengeance, and confronted with the carnage he had wrought, he would shrug and growl, "Something was taken from me. I want it back. Is that so fucking hard to understand?"
What was taken from him was his hand (hence the play's title). As a youth, he was accosted by a gang of yahoos outside Spokane, Washington. He was beaten, and his wrist was held to a railroad track as a freight train approached. The brutes waved goodbye to him using his severed appendage "Can you imagine?" he cries and sold it to the highest bidder, who sold it to someone else, who sold it to someone else. For nearly a half-century, this man has sought the people who possessed his hand, however briefly, and visited justice upon them. At last, his quest has brought him to this room, where two young ne'er-do-wells have promised to deliver the hand for $500.
A Behanding in Spokane is the first play McDonagh has elected to set in America (his usual setting is Ireland), which makes me wonder, perhaps fancifully, if A Behanding might be about 9/11 and its aftermath. There is a moment in the play when the stage is covered in severed body parts; it looks like a bomb went off in a marketplace. If Carmichael, the behanded vigilante (played by Dennis Creaghan), were a more learned man, perhaps he would call the carnage "collateral damage." But he is not a politician, and he is uninterested in spin. Carmichael doesn't come up with a fancy name for the innocents mangled in his mad quest for justice. To him, they simply don't matter.
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