Silver Spring Stage One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s NestBy Laura & Mike Clark • Jul 11th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Silver Spring Stage
Woodmoor Shopping Center, Silver Spring, MD
Through July 23rd
2:40 with one intermission
$20/$18 Seniors and Juniors
Reviewed July 9th, 2011
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a play in two acts by Dale Waserman from the novel by Ken Kesey. Having had several run-ins with the law, Randle Patrick McMurphy finds himself in an Oregon mental institution for a length yet to be determined stay. He turns the place upside down as he fights against those in charge including a sadistic head nurse and a couple orderly toughs in order to bring some dignity to the inmates. This is a serious drama with some pretty funny comedy thrown in to balance out the dialogue.
William Cassidy as Randle Patrick McMurphy, the loud, likable, energetic self-designated “leader of the pack,” gave an outstanding performance. Cassidy embraced the character, and his flaws, as he attempts to bring some normalcy to the abnormal psych ward. Amazingly he got along great with the other patients, but had a real problem dealing with the staff. His main nemesis was the head nurse, Nurse Ratched played by Natalie McManus. It was interesting to watch McManus’ character unfold during the evening. She maintained a cold disdain for McMurphy, which was never violent or as harsh as she possibly could have become. To the other patients she had a more superior, almost motherly, attitude. Even in the end, she showed perhaps a touch of compassion towards McMurphy that seemed out of character from the rest of the evening.
Another stellar performance was given by Andrew Greenleaf as Chief Bromden. The most amazing thing Greenleaf nailed were the eyes. His eyes were not dead and lifeless like Buckley (Jason Damaso), but they were wide and penetrating. Always seemed to be searching. Talk about unnerving! It was as if the chief were looking into your soul.
Although a small part, another actor who excelled in his two scenes was Terry Spann in the role of Aide Turkle. His swagger and humming relaxed what could possibly have become a tense moment. Spann’s characterization said he was one of the boys and treated the patients, maybe not like normal men, but at least like they were people.
“You gotta laugh, especially when things ain’t funny.”
Dr. Spivy, the semi-spineless psychiatrist, was played well by Jonathan Dyer. Dyer was pretty much under the thumb of Nurse Ratched for the majority of the evening, but towards the end did stand up to her when even he felt he could no longer endure her reign of totalitarianism. Dyer had a strong human side towards to patents which was realistic and believable. Unfortunately with Nurse Ratched around he was not always able to show the compassionate side. All the characters made a cohesive unit and worked well together despite their insanity.
The set for Cuckoo’s Nest by the show’s director Bob Benn was bleak and sterile. Perfect for a mental institution! The walls were stark and white. The lighting by Light Designer Bob Scott added to the starkness of the set and enhanced by the narration scenes delivered by Greenleaf. The sound effects by Sound Designer Michael House were never over-powering. If anything they could be louder except that that might cause an uproar among the patients and therefore was a good decision to keep it softer. Costumer Harlene Leahy used plain whites and greens to keep things simple and orderly. The stark contrast was McMurphy’s first entrance wearing a red cap and blue jeans. This totally upset the status quo, which was probably the point!
A drama that will make you laugh while you are contemplating the frailty of life.
Fifty years ago – when Ken Kesey was finishing the manuscript for what would become his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – was a very interesting time in this nation’s history: the Civil Rights movement was about to explode on the national conscience, as was the women’s movement; the U.S. Army was still just “advising” the South Vietnamese government and the seeds of “flower power” were just beginning to be sown; the youngest president in the nation’s history was about to be sworn in and he had not yet issued his challenge to put a man on the moon.
In 1962, playwright Dale Wasserman condensed Kesey’s rich – and at times, provocative – book into a sometimes humorous, but more often a touching and moving drama; what The New York Times called a “scarifying and powerful” play. So, fifty years on, why this play and why now? Well, as they say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” As a country we are still coming to terms with racial differences, issues of equality, and the U.S. is still at war and soldiers are still traumatized by their experiences. And, seemingly every day, we learn of some new transgression by a government employee or entity which makes us question our reliance on “the man.” It seems that Kesey’s book could just as easily have been written today.
Randle P. McMurphy, the charismatic con-man at the center of the play, is chided at one point for always “winning.” He replies by telling us he only bets on a “sure thing.” We learn, soon enough, that for him, winning is a life or death proposition. Now, not every action we take has that dramatic a consequence, but don’t we take chances with our relationships, our jobs, and our friends every day? McMurphy does show us how to stand up for ourselves, but his is a cautionary tale, and we should be careful before we ask someone to “make us big again.”
Community theater, in addition to being performed for friends, family, and the occasional season subscriber, is its own small family – a community that comes together for a few weeks of intense work, followed by a brief moment in the limelight – which eventually disbands as everyone goes their various ways to find other families to work with, other communities to create. I have been fortunate to find this family for Cuckoo’s Nest and hope you find our work to be a “winning” effort.
Bob Benn, Director
- Chief Bromden: Andrew Greenleaf
- Aide Warren: Michael Sachs
- Aide Williams: Wies Valen
- Nurse Ratched: Natalie McManus
- Nurse Flinn: Lauren Tobiason
- Dale Harding: Sheldon Reiffenstein
- Billy Bibbitt: Conor Scanlan
- Scanlon: Eric Small
- Charles Cheswick: David Gross
- Martini: Mario Font
- Ruckley: Jason Damaso
- Randle P. McMurphy: William Cassidy
- Dr. Spivey: Jonathan Dyer
- Aide Turkle: Terry Spann
- Candy Starr: Jung Weil
- Sandra: Diana Hutter
- Producer: Seth Ghitelman
- Director: Bob Benn
- Stage Manager: Alika Codispoti
- Assistant Stage Manager: Donna Shute
- Combat Choreography: William Cassidy & Michael Sachs
- Set Designer: Bob Benn
- Master Carpenter: Ken Ambrose
- Specialty Scenic Painting: Mary Seng
- Set Construction and Painting Assistants: Jennifer Ambrose, Pam Brute
- Brett Cassidy, William Cassidy, Zach Cassidy, Kevin Cohen
- Andrew Cohen-Gross, Jacy D’Aiutolo, Jason Damaso, Ed Eggleston
- Mario Font, Andy Greenleaf, David Gross, Diana Hutter
- Natalie McManus, Sheldon Reiffenstein, Mary Seng, Brandon Small
- Eric Small, Henry Speaker, Bob Thompson, Peter Wuttke
- Properties: Helen Bard Sobola & Sonya Okin
- Set Dressing and Decoration: Bob Benn
- Lighting Designer: Bob Scott
- Sound Designer: Michael House
- Light & Sound Execution: Bob Scott, Henry Speaker
- Special Effects (“Bomb” design & construction): Eric Small
- Costume Design: Harlene Leahy
- Assisted by: Peter Wuttke
- Make-up & Hair: the Cast
- Mental Health Dramaturg: Silvestro Menzano
Disclaimer: Silver Spring Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7008.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.