Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Review Posted: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Centerstage has posted my review of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest at Gift. It's an odd one. I mention it at the start of my review, but this play outdoes itself in castration references and descriptions of women dominating and destroying men. You could practically make a drinking game from it. And this production, while well-acted, gave the time to think about these elements. It didn't quite have enough, that's the wrong metaphor. It didn't grab you by the throat...that's no better. It didn't cut deep enough...crap,. forget it.

Here's the text:

There isn't space to write about the many bizarre elements in the script of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Dale Wasserman's 1963 stage adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel from a year earlier: there's distrust of psychiatry and all authority, a rather troubling "magical Indian Chief" character, and an extremely skewed attitude toward women (with a disturbing focus on castration), among many others. It makes watching the play in 2010 an odd experience.

Theaters still produce the play today, however, because of the rich acting roles and potential for hugely entertaining theatrical fireworks. John Kelly Connolly's Gift Theatre staging is moderately successful in that regard; there are many strong performances, but it falls short of gripping.

The play takes place at an Oregon mental hospital in 1959, ruled absolutely by the calm, sadistic Nurse Ratched (Alexandra Main). Randle P. McMurphy (Paul D'Addario), arrives from the work farm, committed after faking insanity to get an easier sentence. He soon discovers how wrong he is, and leads the inmates in a revolt against Ratched's authority.

Everyone in the cast of 20 is doing strong work: D'Addario brings a seedy edge to his iconic role, Main hides her nastiness behind a nearly implacable reserve, though we never really get a sense of what makes the character tick (that may be the fault of the writing), and Guy Massey, as the most articulate of the inmates, is delightful to watch.

But it never quite coheres into drama. Though rarely boring, it's also rarely compelling, and the stakes never get that high. It's always a pleasure to see a small company doing such an ambitious show, and there's lots of great stuff to see, but in the end it's too hard to get deeply involved.

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