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Christopher Walken, unhinged and looking for his hand.

Christopher Walken, unhinged and looking for his hand. (photo)

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Several characters in Martin McDonagh’s “A Behanding in Spokane” spend a good portion of the play handcuffed to the walls, cowering in fear at the feet of Carmichael, a terrifyingly deranged man desperately in search of the hand he lost 47 years earlier. This image also works as a handy metaphor of what it must be like to share a stage with the man who plays Carmichael, the delightfully deranged Christopher Walken. There’s not a whole lot you can do but speak when spoken to, stay out of his way, and watch him work.

Walken on stage speaks exactly like Walken on film — as a man with a punctuation allergy. Sentences string together, pauses arrive seemingly at random. He’s working from a script, but you’d never know it from the way he not only talks but also how he reacts to his own performance. Near the end of the play, Carmichael tells Mervyn (Sam Rockwell, or at the performance I saw, capable understudy Dashiell Eaves), the only employee of the fleabag hotel where he’s staying, “You, Mervyn, are a very brave receptionist.” In context, the line’s funny; in Walken’s one-of-a-kind delivery, it’s hilarious, and after the audience erupted with laugher, Walken seemingly broke character and cracked a huge smile. Or maybe it was a choice, and it was all in character. Who knows? One of the absolute pleasures of seeing Walken on stage is that moment to moment, scene to scene, you genuinely have no idea what he will do or say (or how he will do it or say it) next. In moments like that, he seemed as surprised by what comes out of his own mouth as the audience.

04122010_ChristopherWalkenBehanding2.jpgFans of McDonagh’s feature directorial debut “In Bruges” will recognize and appreciate, some thematic similarities between the film and his latest play. Both “Bruges” and “Behanding” tell stories of displaced underworld figures, waiting in a sort of purgatory, searching for redemption. Both are about violent people who don’t take violence lightly, and feature characters who are not only dangerous and scary, but also funny, sad, and even a little pathetic; when Carmichael believes a couple of con artists (Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan) know where his hand is, but the pair don’t come through on their end of their bargain, guns and homemade bombs quickly enter the story. Each piece features a character who not only isn’t afraid of death, but is actively curious about it, and each narrative is instigated by a brutal act of violence against a child.

On the whole, “Bruges” is more poignant than “Behanding,” which pitches its comedy so broadly that at times it starts to resemble a Neil Simon farce as reinterpreted by Quentin Tarantino. It’s also a bit more satisfying. But as strong as its performances by Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes were, “Bruges” didn’t have Christopher Walken live on stage, wandering, riffing, smiling, goofing off, pouring gasoline on people, and cracking dirty jokes. Walken’s great in every film, enlivening even projects like “The Country Bears” and “Gigli,” but watching him in person is something even better. Taking in a performance of “Behanding” is like watching the bomb Carmichael makes out of a gas can, an oily rag, and a candle: you sit there watching in twitchy anticipation for the explosion that could happen at any second.

[Photos: “A Behanding in Spokane,” Joan Marcus, 2010]

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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