Actor Andrew Weems' father worked for the U.S. State Department, so young Weems was travelling the world at an early age.
Born in Korea, by age 10 he was in Nepal, acting one of his first roles in an amateur theatrical. The show was A Thousand Clowns and on the first night, Weems made an entrance during the wrong scene.
"I came on a scene early. I was so eager to get up on stage and do my thing," he told Art Attack. "The man playing my uncle sort of made up some lines and told me to get offstage and I left the stage and I thought I'd ruined everything."
"I was screaming and crying. The director of the play came running backstage from the audience and he gave me this pep talk. 'Everybody's counting on you. Stop crying. Get out there and do the play.' I've never forgotten it. In fact, I wrote a solo play and that's one of the stories in the play. Everybody makes a mistake. You've got to give it all you've got."
Weems, who so recently appeared to good effect in the Alley production of Intelligence-Slave, is back on the Alley's Neuhaus stage in A Behanding in Spokane, which opens this Wednesday. He plays Carmichael, a man who lost his hand years ago and is back on a mission.
Actually, Weems doesn't have to go around the stage without a hand--the costume department made him a prosthetic device that makes him look like he has a "nub hand," as he puts it. It's one more thing to take in stride--in Intelligence-Slave he played a Jewish engineer who had to work without his glasses ("I'm always working with some kind of deprivation," he says).
A Behanding in Spokane is almost the polar opposite of Intelligence-Slave, the latter being based on a true story. By comparison, the 90-minute long Behanding is "a pretty dark vision of the world and it's much more fanciful," Weems says. "It's almost like a parable or a Sergio Leone movie."
[Clip above from the New York production of Behanding starring Christopher Walken as Carmichael.]
"It's an amazing play written by an Irish playright, Martin McDonagh (who also did the 2008 Academy Award-nominated film In Bruges)," Weems says. "He developed a pretty strong reputation for a brutal and oftentimes violent vision of the world. Most of his plays have Irish characters. This is the first play that takes place in America."
Thanks to McDonagh's Irishness, the play is "a foreigner's view of America," which makes it all the more intriguing to Weems. "It plays on cetain archetypes of American culture. My character seems like he could be from an old western, a man on a mission, roving the countryside trying to avenge a distant, far-back wrong that was done to him."
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The play includes an African-American man who's paired with a white woman, so it plays on the issues of racism and sexism, Weems says, "in a really wild and unpredictable way."
Weems says he often defines comedy as "a man in trouble," and says all of the characters in this play find themselves in trouble. "The situations are so extreme that they lend themselves to a kind of manic comedic response from the audience."
"It's sort of brutally funny."
A Behanding in Spokane runs September 1 through September 26 on the Neuhaus Stage at the Alley. Ticket information is avalable at www.alleytheatre.org, at the Alley box office, 615 Texas Avenue, or by calling 713-220-5700.