Director, Actors Chat Crazy Characters of A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE at ART of WNY
Director Matthew LaChiusa, actors Candice Kogut (who play 'Marilyn') and Shabar Rouse (who plays 'Toby') took some time away from rehearsals to answer questions about McDonagh's bizarre story, set somewhere in Anytown USA, that features some extreme characters.
How would you describe your characters?
CK: A bad ass gutter punk who always lands on her feet.
SR: I would describe Toby as a hustler. He's quick on his feet and always looking for a way to make a buck. He loves his girlfriend and is willing to get into all kinds of schemes to make some money. Toby is a not so street smart punk with a sensitive side who's always looking to make a buck.
How is this McDonagh's script? Describe his writing style.
CK: It's McDonagh in that it presents the audience with characters that they hate to love in way out-there situations, who deal with their circumstances in the most human of ways. The writing style is abrasive, almost alienating at times, but darkly funny and relatable.
SR: This is the first McDonagh script I've ever read so I don't really know how to characterize his work. But based on this script, I'd say his writing style is dark, brash, unapologetic and fast paced.
ML: In reading and seeing McDonagh's plays, one element stands out with his style and that is the keen development of the character within his works. This and the organic quality found within the dialog he creates that gives a voice to the characters without identifying the playwright's.
This certainly isn't an evening of political correctness theater. How does McDonagh make us care about any of these characters? Or should we?
CK: The characters are not lofty. The language of the characters (expletives aside) is today's vernacular. If you took Marilyn and Toby out of this situation, they would probably be people you'd be friends with. There are moments in the piece, where, for each character, you get to really see where they are coming from, and even if it makes you uncomfortable, you get it; you relate.
SR: McDonagh makes us care about these characters by putting them in situations that they kind of got themselves into but they are just in way over their heads and it kind of almost makes you feel bad for them. Almost.
ML: There is a brutal truth that could be perceived as political un-correctness which catapults each character's motivation--especially Carmichael. Does this create a misperception of these characters as being one-dimensional? Yes and no. But isn't that art imitating life? McDonagh makes us "care" about these characters because we can identify with their dedication to their beliefs and even if these "facts" are completely wrong in the face of truth they still hold onto their beliefs.
In A Behanding in Spokane, how is each character's strengths and weaknesses defined?
CK: The language is genius in this way. I think the characters' strengths are their weakness. Mervyn and Carmichael completely expose themselves through monologue, where we learn Mervyn's isolation is his strength and his weakness, and for Carmichael it's his missing hand. Toby and Marilyn's strengths and weaknesses are revealed in their interactions with each other. They essentially are one another's strength and weakness.
ML: McDonagh writes his characters into situations that will reveal their strengths and weaknesses. For the two kids, it's their survival instinct which keeps them alive in a situation they put themselves into because of their desperation. Carmichael is so dedicated to his beliefs, no matter right or wrong, they've become galvanized. Mervyn, the receptionist, understands people but is a borderline sociopath.
What the hell are audiences going to expect from this piece?
CK: To have fun and also be uncomfortable, so just buckle up and enjoy the ride.
SR: Audiences can expect a wild ride from the get go that's only gonna get bumpier as it goes until it completely falls off the tracks!
ML: Extreme & desperate people doing extreme & desperate things. McDonagh is brilliant and those in attendance will be treated to the work of one of the top ten playwrights of the 21st century.
American Repertory Theater of WNY's production of A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE opens May 4th and runs to May 27th. Directed by Matthew LaChiusa the production features Candice Kogut, Shabar Rouse, Thomas LaChiusa and Nick Lama. Tickets are $20 General Admission/$15 Student & Military Veterans. Thursday nights feature a set-price of $10 throughout the run. For more information contact www.artofwny.org.