If you haven't noticed, we're in the middle of a couple of weeks with quite literally several hundred cultural events going on. Dance, live music, live puppetry, indie films, theatre, art on display ... well, it's not the worst tragedy in the world when you find yourself having to choose which of many cool things you're going to see. May I suggest one in particular?
Trustus Theatre has presented a couple of big-name, award-winning musicals and a couple of name-brand serious dramas so far this season, and one more of each will take us into the summer. In the meantime, there's a smaller, lesser-known show going on in their intimate Black Box Theatre. I saw A Behanding in Spokane on Saturday night, after a long week of work and many of those art events we're all trying to get to, and I was pretty much on arts-overload by that point. I noted to Jim Thigpen before the show that sometimes by 8 PM at the end of the week, I'm just ready to go home to sleep. Which means often my expectations and level of enthusiasm going in to see a show are pretty low, especially if you've reached a point in life where you've seen a lot of shows, good and bad. Believe it or not, however, this can be a good thing, since this means quite often I am very pleasantly surprised. Even if a show isn't the greatest thing ever, the rich wealth of talent in the Midlands often compensates. And sometimes you discover a wonderful play - several years ago, I went into Caroline, or Change, at Workshop, expecting a fable about singing washing machines, and instead discovered a moving account of the civil rights movement (told from the viewpoint of a little Jewish boy in Louisiana - go figure!)
Sure enough, I was very pleasantly surprised with A Behanding in Spokane, which is a gritty, violent, hilarious dark comedy. The material is very funny and well-written, and all four performers do a super job. This is from the press release:
Columbia audiences are no strangers to the work of English playwright Martin McDonagh. Such pieces as The Lonesome West and The Lieutenant of Inishmore have found a home on the Trustus Main Stage in the past, and his Tony-winning The Pillowman was at Theatre South Carolina some years ago. McDonagh is also an Oscar-winning screenwriter and director and Trustus Theatre is thrilled to be producing another work by this comedic and poignant contemporary craftsman as A Behanding in Spokane comes to the Trustus Black Box.
G. Scott Wild (Carmichael) has been featured as Booth in Trustus Theatre's Assassins and Benny Goodman in the world premiere of Swing ’39. Elisabeth Smith Baker and Christopher Jackson playing the bickering lovers selling appendages were recently seen in the Trustus production of Spring Awakening. Ait Fetterolf, who was featured as the lead in Kitty Kitty Kitty, rounds out the cast as the devious bellhop.
A Behanding in Spokane opens Thursday, April 19th at 7:30pm and runs through Saturday, April 28th, 2012. All Thursday shows start at 7:30pm, and Fridays & Saturdays start at 8pm. The doors and box office open thirty minutes prior to curtain, and all Black Box tickets are $15.
One especially cool thing is that this show opened in New York just two years ago, so once again Trustus is bringing the best new shows to town. Another cool thing is that it runs just a little over 90 minutes, including intermission. Meaning that you can go to Artista Vista Thursday afternoon, pop over to the Black Box in time for the 7:30 performance, and be out in time for every restaurant to still be serving. Or catch the 8 PM show Friday and still have plenty of time to catch Alternacirque afterwards at the Art Bar. Or enjoy Crafty Feast on Saturday, followed by the Jasper-sponsored event EPHEMERA: The Art of Multidisciplinary Improvisation that afternoon at 4 PM, watch the Saturday evening performance, and still make it to the Indie Grits closing celebration afterwards.
You can read my review of A Behanding in Spokane at www.onstagecolumbia.com .
Note: G. Scott Wild, who plays the lead, also designed the set.