By Lynn Geyer
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Dale Wassserman’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s powerful novel, is the current production at the Lakewood Playhouse.
Kesey wrote this inside look at a mental institution of the ’60s after working in such a place upon leaving Stanford College.
Much has changed in the field of mental illness in the past 50 years. One thing remains constant – the mentally ill themselves. Their stories are the real stars of this play – theirs and their caregivers. In “Cuckoo’s Nest,” these larger-than-life characters explode on the stage with pathos and uproarious comedy.
Yes, comedy. Go ahead, it’s okay to laugh at the crazy people! This is a very funny show with some very talented actors and great technical effects.
For scene changes, director Marcus Walker uses a slow motion effect during Lighting Designer Kristin Zetterstrom’s thrilling use of color and gobos to create the inner thoughts of Chief Bromden.
The cast of 17 includes several minor characters who pull the show together.
From the medical side, these include Warren and Williams, two orderlies, realistically played by Joseph Kelly and Samuel Kyles; Jack House is priceless as the night orderly, Turkle; Ston Koskey is the spooky Electric Shock Technician; and Phil Raschke ably appears as the chief resident, Dr. Spivey.
Alison Monda is perfect as the sluttish Candy Starr who sneaks into the ward with her cohort Sandra, played by Julie Wenzel, to party with the inmates.
Jenifer Rifenbery is the hard-nosed Nurse Ratched who rules the ward with an iron hand. Laura Bannister is charming as the junior Nurse Flinn who appears to be just as leery of her shadow as she is of the patients.
The final eight characters are the lost souls of the ward – each complete with his own form of mental dilemma.
Michael Sandner is the bomb-carrying Frank Scanlon, Blake R. York plays the eye-twitching Charles Atkins Cheswick III, Robert McConkey is the lobotomized Ruckly who unwillingly traded part of his brain for a Jesus complex and Mark Wenzel is the ill-fated Billy Bibbit who is even more afraid of displeasing his mother than he is of Ratched.
These actors are fantastic! They each developed their characterizations so believably that it’s difficult to think they haven’t really experienced these mental problems.
Randy Clark as Anthony Martini is, in a word, astounding! His character is so well developed and maintained he is completely unrecognizable as the actor but actually becomes the compulsive inmate.
Nathan Daniel Hicks is Chief Bromden, the supposed withdrawn long-term resident of the ward. Hicks is dutifully slow and lumbering in body, hiding behind an agile mind he sequesters except when conversing with his long deceased father.
Joseph Grant is excellent as Dale Harding, the well-educated, self-committed philosopher who uses the institution as an escape from the real world. He is the perfect foil for the newcomer, Randle Patrick McMurphy.
Scott C. Brown is powerful and slimy and funny and pathetic as the bombastic, irascible McMurphy, would-be savior of the inmates who ends up destroying himself. All because he didn’t pay heed to Harding’s admonition that, “The world belongs to the strong. The rabbit recognizes the wolf and hides in his hole until the wolf is gone.” McMurphy refused hide. He flaunted himself in front of the wolf in nurse’s clothing and lost.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” continues at the Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, next to the Pierce Transit Depot, through June 15 each Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.; there is also a Pay-What-You-Can performance scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, May 29 and an Actors’ Benefit matinee Saturday, June 14 at 2 p.m.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Come to the Lakewood Playhouse and laugh at this insanely funny play.