Friday, June 08, 2012

Review: "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"

You’d be crazy to miss The Western Stage’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

I went into the stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel with no expectations and an open-mind. I’ve not seen the movie or read the novel but both have become such staples in American culture that everyone seems to be familiar with the narrative.

The ensemble cast did a fabulous job creating a believable version of a psychiatric hospital’s dayroom inhabitants.

Nathan Liittschwager, as Billy Bibbit, is vulnerable and displays the anguish one might expect from a person who had recently attempted suicide and has the expected problems with meeting his mother’s expectations

Ron Cacas’ descriptions of his hallucinations as Martini had audience members double-checking themselves to ensure that it was merely his hallucination. Alex Bush’s Ruckley serves as a warning to other dayroom dwellers of what happens to those who buck the system.

John G. Bridges’ portrayal of Charles Cheswick reveals a man who plays by the rules of the institution but finds it difficult to measure up to rules on the outside.

Valerio Biondo’s Scanlon never reveals what caused his stint in the psychiatric institution but one can well imagine with the bit at the beginning of the play.

There are three players who merit special attention, however.

No version of “Cuckoo: would be complete without a stern Nurse Ratched, in this case played with tight control by Dawn Flood Fenton. While I had expected a Nurse Ratched who chewed up the scenery, Ms. Fenton’s portrayal showed far more restraint and calm control – she
may have been too nice, in fact.

Jeff McGrath’s mesmerizing interpretation of Randall McMurphy was reminiscent of Nicholson’s film version, though he made the role his own. He was blustery and conniving, a good time Charlie who found a way out of the workhouse.

But it was Reynald Medrano’s interpretation of Chief Bromden that held the play together.

For most of the play Medrano doesn’t speak while on stage and we listen instead to his thoughts in quiet moments before or after scenes. When he finally does speak it catapults the action into high gear and causes the other men to question their own inevitable shrinkage as a result of their time in the psychiatric hospital.

This performance reminds me that we have wonderful local talent on the central coast and in particular on The Western Stage.

-Lee Ann Ritscher

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