“It’s the truth, even if it didn’t happen…” ~ Ken Kesey, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
Still fantastically crazy after all these years… and well worth seeing! Set in an unspecified state mental hospital in the early 1960s, this emotionally provocative play adapted by Dale Wasserman from Ken Kesey’s novel, which examines severe and inhumane treatment of mentally disordered patients, as directed by Todd Holtsberry, packs a powerful impact; a two fisted one. Although from the very first scene, the “charming” inmates of the ward illicit lots of tittering and laughter from the audience with their diverse kookiness, idiosyncrasies tics and antics, it is at times guilty laughter as there is also a sad undercurrent evoking empathy. These labeled lunatics may perhaps be curable, may at one time have been like any ‘normal’ person; they are human, just like you, but somehow lost their way and are now reduced as humans and subjected to cruel treatment. Restless Randle P. McMurphy (played in a perfect hyper-kinetic charismatic form by Jerry Rudasill), ending up at the ward to avoid the prison work farm, establishes a new pecking order by becoming the “bull goose” of the group, takes “the looneys” under his wing, and begins to counter ward policies; i.e. the vicious, unrelenting megalomania of Nurse Ratched (a role owned by versatile Bonnie Lay Grant), ruler of the psychiatric ward.
The attention to detail in the both technical and dramatic aspects of this production, especially in the development of each individual character, is impressive. Every patient is distinct in his mannerisms. At one point in the show when Nurse Ratched takes away the men’s right to watch the game, you could sense the psychological castration in face and physicality. No standing around on this set waiting for the next line, all are actively engaged in each scene whether through facial or physical expression, movement or stage business. This activity is well coordinated, doesn’t upstage the main action, and is well supported.
Chief Bromden is realistically rendered by Dennis Cobourn and maintains a strong presence throughout the show. Dale Harding is dapperly done by Rob Reynolds, while Dennis Mahoney’s wonderful portrayal of Anthony Martini is still making me laugh (guiltily). Gene Harris rocks as Frank Scanlon, Jamie Graham works wonders as Billy Bibbit, Carlo Campbell gives lots character to Charles
Atkins Cheswick III, and Pete McRae’s work as Ruckly is appreciated. Robert Reed Murphy and Jack Buckley mean serious business as Aides Williams and Warren, and La Neshesh Miller-White, who is behind glass for much of the show, manages to shine out like a mirror with her reactions to what is taking place before her on stage. Jim Brennan is fun as Aide Turkle, and John Vincente does well as Dr. Spivey. Natalie Brown and Petra DeLuca flesh out their party girl roles as Candy Starr and Sandra quite well. Jerry Rudasill as Randle against Bonnie Lay Grant as Ratched had the air crackling between them like so much matter and anti-matter. Terrific interaction in this cast.
The set (Todd Holtsberry) is realistic and did much to enhance the overall mood of the play, as did the video sequences and special effects (Andrew Geller, Bill Spadaro), lighting and sound (J.P. Timlim). Again, the detail, particularly in the lighting used in the ward main window, the scuff marks on the doors, sliding glass windows for the nurse’s station, and more, is a beautiful thing to behold.
Kudos to cast and crew for another quality Colonial Playhouse production!
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
by Dale Wasserman
Directed by Todd Holtsberry
April 5 – 20, 2013
522 West Magnolia Avenue
Aldan, PA 19018-3709