Entertainment » Theatre

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

by Will Demers
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 19, 2019
A promotional photo for "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" presented by the Spectrum Theatre Ensemble
A promotional photo for "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" presented by the Spectrum Theatre Ensemble  

The Wilbury Theatre Group has a new visiting production. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is presented by Spectrum Theatre Ensemble in a thoughtful and engaging production. Told from the perspective of Chief Bromden (Jay Walker), the play is set in a mental asylum where he views the proceedings as a machine controlling the inmates' experiences. Pretending to be deaf and mute, his narrative to us as the audience is a conversation with his dead father.

Under the supervision of Nurse Ratched (Madison Weinhoffer), the inmates must conform or be struck down, be it electroshock therapy or, worse, a lobotomy. Ken Kesey's 1962 book about the goings-on of an Oregon psychiatric hospital was later adapted by Dale Wasserman into an unsuccessful Broadway play in 1963, then, in 1975, into a very successful film directed by Milos Forman (the movie won five Oscars). Here, the colorful inmates are presented by an even more colorful cast.

There's the "leader," Dale Harding (Daniel Boyle) a flamboyant man who's obsessed with the failure of his marriage; Cheswick (David Adams Murphy), a verbose man who complains about everything; Martini (Daniel Perkins), who sees people who aren't there; and Billy (Geoffrey Besser), a young man with a strong stutter. Rounding out the cast is Adam Almeida as Ruckly and Adam D. Bram as Scanlon. But the central character is Randle P. McMurphy (Teddy Lytle), a man obsessed with gambling who stirs the pot by challenging the system, Nurse Ratched, and everything about his situation.

The great thing about "Cuckoo's Nest" is that it mixes pathos, humor, and drama so well. Here it ticks off all those boxes, thanks in part to some strong performances. Director Clay Martin utilizes his diverse cast to the heights of their abilities, giving us the right concoction of personalities. Boyle's Harding is a sensitive performance, Murphy is solid in his role and Perkins is a delight as Martini. Weinhoffer brings considerable coldness to Ratched (no small feat), especially in her dealings with Lytle, who is incredibly spirited as McMurphy, as if the role was created just for him.

Besser's Billy is notably excellent, as well, and Walker's Bromden shines from his first uttered words. Each of the cast sports some steampunk enhancements to their clothing as if to highlight their parts in the great machine that either controls or empowers them. Only McMurphy's enhancements are absent, perhaps to show us his spirit will always be free. When he meets with resident Dr. Spivey (Mary Paolino) he has her eating out of his hand. But Ratched won't allow such freedom on her watch, and this brings the tension to this well-written play that is well worth checking out for talented performances. Keep an eye out for this new ensemble, for whom great things lie ahead.


"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" is presented by Spectrum Theatre Ensemble and performed at The Wilbury Theatre. Running through August 24th at 40 Sonoma Court, Providence, RI. 02909. For information or tickets contact Spectrum at www.stensemble.org or call 401-400-7100 at the Wilbury Theatre location.

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