One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
By Dale Wasserman
Based on a novel by Ken Kesey
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Daniel Cooksley, Tim Bass and Marion Marsh
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL
It seemed like such a good idea at the time: R. P. McMurphy (Cooksley) had a year and half to serve on the work farm and decided if they thought he was psycho he could spend his sentence in the comfy loony bin. But once he’s in there, two shocking facts confront him: Nurse Ratchet (Marsh) has more power than the criminal justice system, and unlike the other charming basket cases in his ward, he’s now committed indefinitely and at her discretion. His rebellion is subversive; he brings hope to his fellow inmates and total disaster down upon himself. The System HATES guys like R.P. McMurphy.
Let’s start with the impulsive McMurphy. Cooksley is looking better than ever in this role, he flirts, schemes and defrauds his cell mates and they love him like a long lost dog. Under nurse Ratchet’s thumb all is calm and sedated, but McMurphy not only entertains her charges, he gives them hope. The other inmates are carefully curated set of insanities: they range from the sexually ambiguous Dale Harding (Russell Trahan) to the catatonic Chief Bromden (Bass) to the Christ-like figure Ruckley (Mark Davids) who is crucified more often that the guy playing Jesus at “The Holy Land Experience.” Then there’s Cheswick (David Strauss) and Martini (Will Barbara) – Cheswick thinks too much and Martini invents people who aren’t there. Shaved-headed Scanlon (Derek Ormond) completes the suite – he’s just generic crazy but comes up with perfectly appropriate lines as needed. McMurphy even arranges an orgy for pathologically shy Billy Bibbit (Logan Curran). Chief Bromden is his toughest case, Bromden’s officially catatonic but in reality he’s just overly medicated and overly depressed. The Orderlies (Damany O Riley and Clarence Reynolds) torture him, and Ratchet doesn’t object so long as there are no marks. Her notional boss is Dr. Spivey (Joe L Smith), he’s not looking to rock the boat and as long as Ratchet keeps a lid on he can drink in peace and get paid for it.
Technically, the criminal justice system can’t torture you, but that’s not true of the medical justice system. Their tool kit ranged from a rainbow of pills ending in “zine” to electroshock to the dreaded lobotomy, or as one of the patients says “A frontal-lobe castration.” This story has its roots in the fading days of lobotomies and the rising era of drugs and social protest yet feels surprisingly fresh. McMurphy contains in him the ideals of a social zealot – he’s borderline, but know what buttons to push and when to push them, but more importantly is willing to go the distance. These guys usually die young, but we name parks and religions for them.
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