The Oscar winner takes centre stage in the world premiere of Martin McDonagh’s play, about the unfortunate life of Carmichael, a man on a desperate search for the hand he lost as a teenager, when a gang attacked him and cut it off.
The 66 year old’s portrayal of Carmichael has been well-received by New York’s notoriously tough critics; the New York Times’ writer Ben Brantley credits Walken as “a scrofulous wonder to behold”, while USA Today’s reviewer admits the actor plays the role “predictably and hilariously off-centre”.
The highest praise came from the New York Daily News critic Joe Dziemianowicz, who tips Walken – who last appeared on Broadway in James Joyce’s musical The Dead in 2000 – as an early Tony Awards winner.
He writes, “Walken’s performance is amazing, the stuff Tony Awards are made of. Using his silky voice and haunting eyes, he’s spectacularly spooky and funny as Carmichael…”
However, Walken’s co-stars, including Zoe Kazan, Sam Rockwell and Anthony Mackie, have garnered mixed reviews for their roles, with reviewers directing their criticism at McDonaugh’s script.
Dziemianowicz says, “When Walken isn’t onstage, the play does seem to spin its wheels…” while Brantley compares some of the scenes to poor skits on U.S. sketch show Saturday Night Live.
Brantley writes, “Mr. Mackie, Mr. Rockwell and Ms. Kazan are talented, individualistic performers with impressively varied resumes. But here they often fall into formulaic styles, playing the situation more than the characters. At times, especially when a sorely missed Mr. Walken is not onstage, Behanding feels like a just-written Saturday Night Live sketch, for which the jokes have yet to be tested.”
A Behanding in Spokane, which opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Thursday night (04Mar10), is directed by John Crowley and will run until 6 June (10).