None Too Fragile’s “A Behanding in Spokane” isn’t in the “gotta see” category of one-act dramas, but it certainly is in the “worth seeing” group, especially because of the stellar performances by the cast – Michael Regnier (Carmichael); Nick Yurick (Mervyn); Kelly Strand (Marilyn); and Brian Kenneth Armour (Toby).
As an ensemble, the actors bring to life a motley crue of down-and-outers. Armour’s and Strand’s Toby and Marilyn are petty thieves and street drugs dealers (mostly weed) who show they, like the others, are driven by lesser demons. Marilyn has a persistent cold that serves to counteract her wiliness and the coquette-like behavior she uses to try to get her way. Toby is a beefy macho type who cries at every conflict, big and little.
Regnier’s Carmichael lost his left hand 25 years earlier and has been searching in vain and with a morbid obsession for it since. Toby and Marilyn hear about him and attempt to foist off a hand they presumably found in an anthropological museum belonging to an aborigine.
Carmichael doesn’t fall for the scam (which has an ironic twist later in the play) and instead tethers the couple to a radiator in the seedy hotel room he occupies while on his search. The menacing part of his character comes as he douses the room and the couple with gasoline and then sets the can to the side with a slow burning candle atop it.
Yurick’s Mervyn is a weird, dirty looking bellhop/manager/chief telephone operator. He spends his time not helping anyone, but talking out his own fantasies of being involved in some kind of armed conflict while he is in fact gun shy. He rambles as he rubs deodorant on his feet (long distance runners take note) and stays unaffected by the lowlife menace around him.
So where’s the black comedy in all of this? In part from the oddities of the characters. They make you chuckle if nothing else. But there’s more. Partially hidden under the bed is a suitcase filled with familiar body parts – old hands if you will – which the characters almost gleefully toss at each other in something like a snowball fight defending a make-believe fort. That’s part of the “yuck” factor of the action that mirrors the set, the characters and the situation.
Somehow though it doesn’t all seem to come together in Martin McDonagh’s story. The characters and action are interesting but don’t seem to get anywhere by the end. Maybe that in part is because of how the drama itself resolves. Carmichael has been searching for something vital that he lost and can’t find it. He also can’t let it go. You find yourself wanting to say “stop it” and just get on with it, something this hapless character can’t do.
None Too Fragile’s “A Behanding in Spokane” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday through March 9 in its location at Pub Bricco, 1835 Merriman Rd., Akron; 330-671-4563; www.nonetoofragile.com. Tickets are $20 or pay as you can.