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Performing Arts

Heavy mental

Tensions in a mental institution are the basis for this fixture of theater wrapping up this weekend.

Larry Laneer April 25th, 2012

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Oklahoma City Theatre Company
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
CitySpace, Civic Center Music Hall
201 N. Walker

Soon after meeting his fellow patients in an unnamed mental institution, Randle P. McMurphy exclaims, “Damn, what a sorry-lookin’ bunch!” Funny, I thought the same thing when viewing the OKC Theatre Company production of Dale Wasserman’s highly effective adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. OKCTC should take that as a high compliment: This is a loony-looking cast.

Any production of this familiar story depends on the actors playing McMurphy and his nemesis, Nurse Ratched. For those who’ve yearned to see Angie Duke play Ratched, here’s your chance. Illuminating every play she’s in, she’s particularly chilling here.

The manipulation is written into the script, but the scenes where Ratched subtly dominates a psychiatrist, just as she does the patients, are especially appealing.

Making his debut, Drew Pollock does the heavy lifting as McMurphy, and he’s up to the task. And what type of actor does it take? In the original 1963 stage production, McMurphy was played by Kirk Douglas; in the 1975 film, Jack Nicholson — not exactly a couple of pikers. Pollock is an appealing actor, and it would be nice to see him in other plays.

Staging this Nest in the intimate space challenges director George Adams. The theater layout creates poor sight lines for some of the audience; in such a small space, details become amplified. The costumes and institutional decor suggest the early 1960s.

Rick Foresee does a fine job as the stuttering Billy Bibbit; with his mop of hair, he bears an uncanny resemblance to the movie’s Brad Dourif. Ian Clarke takes a while to get his footing, but when he does, he’s believable as Dale Harding, the snooty patient who’s victimized as much as treated by Ratched’s cruel therapy.

In the small role of Aide Turkle, El Logan is a hoot. Tyler Waits plays a patient who spends his time making a “bomb” — perhaps an amusing eccentricity 50 years ago, but cause for federal prison today.

Yancey Red Corn plays Chief Bromden. In several scenes, Red Corn voice is heard on tape; these scenes are important in establishing Chief Bromden’s background, but Adams seems to have told Red Corn, “Here, read this as fast as you can.”

The result is an unrealistic performance that I doubt Adams — and certainly not Wasserman — intended.

The production is entertaining, but lacks the minute detail and strong acting throughout the cast to be top-notch.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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