Carlsbad, CA—There’s a reason actor Jeffrey Jones was awarded Outstanding Lead Performer in a Play (“Little Flower of East Orange”) by The San Diego Theatre Critics Group last year; he’s just that good! If you hustle up to New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad before April 21st you will be able to catch him in another of his impressive acting performances, that of one Randle P. McMurphy or ‘Mac’ in Dale Wasserman’s award winning play, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.
The play, based on the novel by Ken Kesey and directed deftly by Claudio Raygoza follows the vicissitudes of one Randle P. McMurphy (Jones) who thought he was doing himself a favor by feigning mental illness for his latest crime, statutory rape.
Rather than being sent to a work farm to serve out his sentence, he is sent to a mental institution in the state of Oregon. The time frame is the ‘60’s so anyone gasping at the treatment in this particular mental ward might be put to ease in the knowledge that things ought to be different now in 2013. (My guess only)
Some might remember the movie with Jack Nicholson as ‘Mac” and his chief adversary and public enemy # one was nurse Ratched played by Louise Fletcher who later went on the win the Academy Award for her performance as the spiteful, calculating and emasculating former army nurse, ‘Nurse Ratched’.
Surrounded by an outstanding cast of no less than sixteen, Raygoza moves the inmates and staff around his realistic set which is the central meeting room of the hospital. Off to one side a flight of stairs with a metal door that locks, keeping the inmates in and allows the staff out. Taking up another part of the stage is a glassed off room for the nurses to keep an eye on the group at all times.
A working microphone behind the glass windows is used for announcements by our most tempered nurse (Kristianne Kurner) and in general is the nurse’s station. Two large stained glass windows look back at the audience teasing the inmates with the proximity to the outside world. Other doors lead to various parts of the ward allowing the large cast room to come and go.
Remember the Vegas adds that tout ‘What goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas’? Well pretty much what went on that particular hospital ward stayed there because most of the patients were there of their own volition (they are called curable as opposed to the Chronics; they can’t leave) and because Nurse Ratched had everyone including the milquetoast Dr., Dr. Spivey (David Macy-Beckwith) under her control including when to give the patients a bit of shock treatment or even a lobotomy.
Just look at one of the inmates, the Christ like looking figure in the body of Ruckly (John Tessmer) whose arms are constantly outstretched leaning against one of the walls, giving the appearance of being nailed to a cross. His empty eyes stare out and he is led around like a child, the result of a lobotomy.
Others include Dale (Justin Lang is the closeted gay) the organizer and president of the Patients Council. Kyle Lucy is perfect as Billy, dominated by his mother and as a result is a stutterer; Tim West is Cheswick, a man of many words and very little action. Edie Yaroch plays Scanion. He is obsessed with bomb conspiracies and Max Macke is delusional and imagines folks where there are none. He is also beset by ticks and is in a constant state of shakes and mumbling.
They all pretty much move as a group and know what to expect each time they assemble in the main room. Ensemble wise, this group is as cohesive as seen in some time thanks to Raygoza and some pretty resourceful acting on everyone’s part. Adding to the overall picture Ron Marchand, Durwood Murphy Elijah Howlett show up as aides and Kristin Woodburn is Nurse Finn, Ratched’s helper.
Speaking as the narrator, Brian Abraham is Chief Bromden. He is the son of the chief and a white woman. Everyone thinks he is hearing and speech impaired. In the darkness (Chris Renda’s lighting design is perfect) he tells us of the history of the ward. Keeping in mind that he has been there over ten years and has had a series of electroshock treatments, his story telling can be rather difficult to follow.
Into this nest of bees, McMurphy or Mac is thrown, and not gently. After assessing the different behaviors, he decides to shake things up a bit and immediately sits down at the table where some of the men are playing cards and takes bets. The biggest one is that he can get Nurse Ratched’s goat and in turn she will soften up a bit and in turn the inmates might have a little more freedom of thought and movement.
If all we had to do in this play was to watch the regulars move about, we would surely grow weary of the humdrum of life in the institution. But Jones shakes things up only in a way that makes this dated show worthwhile watching. One never knows what will happen next in his series of mischievous pranks like sneaking in his girl friend Sandra and her friend Candy, (Samantha Ginn) and Candy (Rhianna Basore). Booze and sex were the order of business that night until Ratched broke in to their party. Or when he volunteers to let the doctor give him a shock treatment ordered by Nurse Ratched just to be contrary.
As street smart and as full of life as he appears to be, Mac doesn’t heed the warnings of his now friends in the asylum and keeps pushing Ratched’s buttons rather than backing down and reading himself to be let out. While all are having a gay old time and in some perverted way letting it all hang out, Ratched is slowly marking time ready to show, once again who’s in charge.
Kristianne Kurner is meticulous as Nurse Ratched. Her controlled anger is as unbending as is her starched white nurses uniform (Mary Summerday). With just a look, a smirk, a note on a chart or an about face out of the room says volumes without even raising her voice. When she enters the room, all the air is sucked out of it. She is amazingly on target as the control freak of the century.
Theatre doesn’t get much better than this.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through April 21st
Organization: New Village Arts Theatre
Production Type: Drama
Where: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Ticket Prices: $22.00-$33.00
Web: newvillage arts.org