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Blank Canvas’s ‘A Behanding In Spokane’ is embarrassingly funny

We have all been to that type of that is totally inappropriate, dark and forbidding...yet we find ourselves laughing through the entire work. Such is the case with Blank Canvas’s production of Martin McDonagh’s “A Behanding In Spokane”.

As a teenager, Carmichael (Keith Kornajcik) was kidnapped by “a bunch of hillbillies” who took him to a nearby railroad track and held his hand in place while a train ran over it, severing if from his arm. As they departed the scene they waved to him using his own hand.

Since that time, Carmichael has spent his life crisscrossing the country to seek revenge against the four perpetrators (of which he was successful) and seeking the return of his missing limb (of which he was not successful). It is now 27 years after the behanding and Carmichael (following word of mouth leads) finds himself in a new city (Tarlington, Ohio) in a nondescript hotel holding Toby (Christian “CJ” Hall), a young black man, hostage while his girl friend Marilyn (Jillian Mesaros) is sent to retrieve the missing hand they claim to be in possession of (spoiler alert: they do not have it). The show begins with Carmichael firing a pistol at Toby in order to stop his whimpering. This brings Mervyn (Daniel Telford) who works the desk at the motel to the room to investigate the gun shot.

Mervyn appears to be a bit drug addled as a typical stoner would be. His free expression seems to wander wherever his synapses take him. He talks about spending lots of time at the zoo watching the gibbons. Meanwhile, Carmichael is trying to reach his aged mother who he has not heard from for a few days thus asks Mervyn’s help in connecting with her.

Marilyn returns with “a” hand but it is obviously not Carmichael’s since it is the hand of an ancient Aborigine stolen from a local natural history museum and is black. The two tell him that “his” hand is at their house on top of the upright freezer. In a rage Carmichael handcuffs to bickering pair to the radiator pipework and sets off to find the hand. He leaves behind a can of gasoline with a burning candle sticking out of the spout. After Carmichael departs, the two prisoners manage to snare a suitcase that is on the floor hoping that it has a means for them to escape. Instead, it is full of human hands of various sizes.

Mervyn sees Carmichael leaving via the fire escape and comes to investigate. He sees the burning candle and gas can but figures that there is a good reason why it was left there. Somehow Toby and Marilyn convince Mervyn to put out the candle. Carmichael returns sans hand and douses the two cons with the gasoline as well as the hotel room.

These four actors form a perfect team to portray this weird and wild show. Keith Kornajcik as Carmichael is perfect as the menacing maniac searching for his missing member. Jillian Mesaros as Marilyn and Christian “CJ” Hall as Toby are great as the bickering couple who simply do not know when to shut up. They are their own worse enemies. Lastly, there is Daniel Telford as Mervyn who is the comic relief of the entire show. His short personal soliloquy is devastatingly funny.

Patrick Ciamacco designed the lighting and stage set that suit the show well. Luke Scattergood supplied the costumes that are appropriate. The show is smartly directed by Andrew Keller.

In spite of the grim subject matter of the show there are moments of absolute hilarity as the story takes one wild twist after another leading to a surprise ending that none will be able to guess. If you are a fan of the macabre you will love this show.

The Blank Canvas production of “A Behanding In Spokane” will be on stage at 1305 W. 78th Street (78th Street Studios) in Suite 211, Cleveland, Ohio through June 8th, 2024. For more information and to purchase tickets go to or call (440) 941-0458.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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