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One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Reviews.

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Cuckoo touches Berkshire crowd

By MICHAEL ECK, Special to the Times Union
First published: Sunday, July 15, 2007

review
STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. -- Randle Patrick McMurphy is crazy. Like a fox.
He gets into a little trouble, he gets sent to the work farm. Work on
the farm is too hard, so he gets himself sent to the funny farm. Easy
enough.

But it doesn't take long before McMurphy realizes that the loony bin
is not quite the free ride it seemed from the outside.

McMurphy is the hero -- some would say anti-hero -- of Ken
Kesey's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest."

Jonathan Epstein is playing McMurphy in the Berkshire Theatre
Festival's current revival of Dale Wasserman's 1963 stage adaptation
of the novel. Hooray!

Epstein refuses to offer bad work onstage, and he alone could carry
this production; another hooray, because he doesn't have to. Director
Eric Hill has assembled an excellent cast; put them on a fantastic
set (from Karl Eigsti); and guided the proceedings with a steady hand
and sensitivity.

Friday's opening audience laughed when they were supposed to; gasped
when they were supposed to; and certainly came close to tears when
they were supposed to, too. Hill wasn't being manipulative -- simply
true.

McMurphy, of course, is the self-satisfied, brawling gambler who
lands at a Pacific Northwest asylum and immediately tries to take
over the place. He meets his match in Nurse Ratched, who runs the
ward like a dictator.

Sparks fly when they face off -- literally and figuratively -- with
McMurphy eventually being stunned by electroshock and silenced by
even more draconian measures.

Epstein, as noted, is fantastic. His graying hair is dyed red and
underneath it he is all Irish fireball. He makes the role -- played
by Kirk Douglas on stage and Jack Nicholson on screen -- his own.

Linda Hamilton plays Ratched, and while the portrayal is not as
riveting as her appearance in last season's "The Night of the
Iguana," it is still strong work.

From an acting standpoint what might be most impressive is the
performance Hill draws from Randy Harrison. It's Harrison's third
year with the festival and he has finally shone with the brightness
he's been suggesting all along. He is perfect as the virginal wreck,
Billy Bibbitt.

The rest of the inmates are well played, too, by Tommy Schrider,
Jerry Krasser, E. Gray Simons III, Robert Serrell and Stew Nantell.

Austin Durant tackles Chief Bromden, who is the narrator of both the
book and the play (but not the film). Durant brings the right mix of
dignity and pity to the character and he does not disappoint in the
important famous final moments of the play.

"Cuckoo's Nest" is timely, too. It asks important questions about who
is sane and who is not; who should be behind locked doors and who
should be free.

These are questions we should all ask ourselves, and the piece
certainly prompted far-ranging, difficult and bittersweet
conversation in my car on the way home from the Berkshires.

Well, well worth seeing. Michael Eck, a freelance writer from Albany,
is a frequent contributor to the Times Union.

Theater review"ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST" Performance reviewed:
8 p.m. FridayWhere: Berkshire Theatre Festival, Main Street,
Stockbridge, Mass.Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes; one
intermissionContinues: 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Matinees, 2
p.m. Thursday and Saturday. Through July 28Tickets: $37-$64Info:
(413) 298-5576Web site: http:// www.berkshiretheatre.org

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www.variety.com/review/VE1117934191?refCatId=12...
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
(Berkshire Theater Festival, Stockbridge, Mass.; 415 seats, $64 top)
By Frank Rizzo

Tommy Schrider, Ron Bagden, Jonathan Epstein and Randy Harrison star in Berkshire Theater's presentation of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'
A Berkshire Theater Festival presentation of a play in two acts by Dale Wasserman, adapted from the novel by Ken Kesey. Directed by Eric Hill.
Randle P. McMurphy … Jonathan Epstein Nurse Ratched … Linda Hamilton Billy Bibbit … Randy Harrison Dr. Spivey … Ron Bagden Chief Bromden … Austin Durant Scanlon … Jerry Krasser Dale Harding … Tommy Schrider Martini … Robert Serrell Chetswick … E. Gray Simons III Aide Williams, Turkle … Anthony Stockard Candy Starr … Crystal Bock Aide Warren … Sheldon Best Ruckley … Stew Nantell
Dale Wasserman's adaptation of Ken Kesey's counter-culture novel still packs a punch, despite the obviousness of the authority-challenging theme and the indelible memory of the heavily Oscared 1975 Milos Forman film. In helmer Eric Hill's thoughtful staging for the Berkshire Theater Festival, the inmates take over the aslyum -- and the production -- but in dramatically grounded ways. The solid ensemble and well-measured melodrama of the narrative make for a satisfying production, even if this "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" doesn't quite make it into the audience's hearts.
It takes a while to adjust to Jonathan Epstein's Randle P. McMurphy, the charming lug of a con man who thinks a stay in a psych ward is better than prison. Working against Epstein is an unnatural red dye job and the fact that the actor is well past the rebel character's charismatic prime. But his truthful perf ultimately wins out via actor's craft and will. Like his character, Epstein succeeds by his bravura relentlessness, humor and nerve. By play's end you realize McMurphy is an antihero for the ages, not just of an age.
Not so successful is Linda Hamilton's Nurse Ratched. Hamliton, who scored last summer as the lusty Maxine in "Night of the Iguana," seems unable to find the right pitch as the unnaturally serene control freak.
Instead her sing-songy speech evokes a vacant presence that could qualify her for admittance to the institution -- not a woman whose unnerving calm belies absolute power. She rallies for her final scenes which require her to break from her artificial veneer, but the shift comes too late.
Randy Harrison gives a rich and poignant perf as the stammering, cowering Billy Bibbit. Harrison builds a well modulated arc as Bibbit gradually finds the nerve, inspired by McMurphy, to stand up for himself, only to unravel under Ratched's chilling threats.
Austin Durant gives his stoic Chief Bromden a psychological complexity, and Tommy Schrider's effeminate Dale Harding is also a standout.
Production values are first-class in the summer staging. Designer Karl Eigsti's psych ward is a detailed model of institutional depression, lit with the right amount of practicality and despair by Matthew E. Adelson.
There's little one can do with the sсript's dated indulgences, especially the Chief's rambling flights of woeful poetry, the flashes of colored lights and slo-mo effects. But the cast finds the humanity and credibility to make the lurid, sometimes over-the-top writing plausible and the work's payoff still powerful.
Sets, Karl Eigsti; costumes, Jessica Risser-Milne; lighting, Matthew E. Adelson; sound, J Hagenbuckle; production stage manager, Alan Filderman. Opened, reviewed July 13, 2007. Runs through July 28. Running time: 2 HOURS, 35 MIN.
With: Rebecca Leigh Webber
Contact the Variety newsroom at news@variety.com
Date in print: Tue., Jul. 17, 2007

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www.edgeboston.com

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
by J. Peter Bergman
EDGE Boston Contributor
Sunday Jul 15, 2007
Go inside the mind of an Indian chief who has been diminished by the
world he knows into a hulking shell of a man, a shell that
communicates internally but not externally. See the world of denial
through his eyes and experience the lust of a man for size, and
nothing more, the restoration of his stature in the world. That is
what Dale Wasserman, the playwright who brought us this adaptation of
Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, would like us to
know, from the inside out. He wants us to feel what this man feels.
He finally allows us to know the reasons why Chief Bromden has taken
refuge inside himself, behind his mind, behind his abilities. One
more thing this playwright and novelist team have accomplished: they
bring the chief a gift, a man named McMurphy, a gift in human form
who opens the doorway to his capabilities, his capacities to achieve
stature. It's an incredible gift.

In its initial run on Broadway the gift was played by Kirk Douglas, a
man whose notorious grin has been seen on the face of maniacs; it was
a smile that gave away his own character's madness. In the movie,
Jack Nicholson in the same role brought that overly familiar grimace
that nowadays screams "Here's Johnny" to anyone familiar with his
other edge of madness role in that Stephen King film.

On the mainstage at the Berkshire Theatre Festival we have Jonathan
Epstein who embraces the role of McMurphy with a full-face smile that
is sometimes one of genuine amusement, sometimes a cover for other
emotions. In fact, that smile may be as memorable as the other two in
my memory because of its variation, its ability to astound, confuse
or ingratiate. Epstein's smile, his grin, his grimace is the key to
his interpretation of this role and it is one of the finest
performances of his local career.

He is joined by an exceptional cast in this large cast show. Linda
Hamilton, with a smile of her own that seems to convey anything but
amusement, is Nurse Ratched. Her control, both of her emotions and
her intent, is alarming as she warmly encourages participation from
the inmates in her ward of the asylum while already prepared to bring
them down with her concept of discipline. Hamilton is startlingly
strong as she encourages McMurphy to fail by insisting that he
succeed. She is almost, but never quite, a charmer.

Austin Durant as Chief Bromden almost walks away with the show. This
actor has become one of my favorites in just two seasons. I am
pleading with the management of the BTF to promise me (and the
public) that they will always find him a role each and every season.
As the man who wants to restore himself, but has no tools to use, he
is both compelling and engaging. His power is not in his size but in
his honesty. Even the craziest internal monologues he has a genuine
spirit that carries his performance to a higher plane of reality.
Once he becomes a participant in the plot of the play he rips our
hearts to shreds as he engages with his cohorts and finds himself
again.

That emotional resolution is denied to Billy Bibbit, played with
warmth and with physical frustrations by Randy Harrison in what I
think is his finest work on this stage. He has a moment in the second
act where his Billy is almost whole again and when he loses it,
crumples it up and throws it away at the feet of Nurse Ratched, it is
one of the most touching and heart-rending moments in this highly
emotional play.

Crystal Bock is a wonderful Candy Starr, the prostitute who "mock-
marries" Billy. Robert Serrell is a wonderful Martini, making us see
what he sees. E. Gray Simons, III turns Cheswick's anger and angst
into mini-monuments that crumble into dust the instant they are
erected. Tommy Schrider gives Dale Harding all of the peculiarities
he can, both physical and vocal and leaves an indelible impression.
The entire ensemble delivers nicely. It's a joy to watch them play
out their mental and physical disabilities.

But at the center of it all is McMurphy. Epstein's performance, as
already noted, is his very best work in a long time. Under Eric
Hill's classic direction, McMurphy takes second place to Chief
Bromden, a balance that has been hard to achieve in previous
productions. Hill and Epstein allow him to be the fulcrum in this
eerie balance board of a work. Often taking center stage for his
bigger moments, he melds into the picture when necessary. Hill brings
Bromden to the forefront slowly over time, even though we are seeing
the whole McMurphy experience through the chief's eyes. When he and
McMurphy finally connect it is moving and when they play their final
scene together, mute and emotional, it is devastating.

This is tough theater. This is hard, biting satirical drama. There
are laughs, but they are often uncomfortable laughs. There are tears,
but they linger behind the eyes. There is sense in all the nonsense
and silliness in the tragedies that shouldn't be. There are also
clichés, but what are those if not realities we're accustomed to in
our own lives. Reality is on the stage in Stockbridge and it's alive
with possibility.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest plays through July 28 at the
Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge, MA. Ticket prices range
from $37 - $64. For complete schedule and availability call the box
office at 413-298-5576 or visit www.berkshiretheatre.org.

J. Peter Bergman is a journalist and playwright,living in Berkshire
County, MA. A founding board member of the Berkshire Stonewall
Community Coalition and former New York Correspondent for London's
Gay News, he spent a decade as theater music specialist for the
Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives at Lincoln Center in NYC, is the co-
author of the recently re-issued The Films of Jeanette MacDonald and
Nelson Eddy and a Charles Dickens Award winner (2002) for his
collection of short fiction, "Counterpoints." His features and
reviews can also be read in The Berkshire Eagle and other regional
publications. His current season reviews can be found on his website:
www.berkshirebrightfocus.com. He is a member of NGLJA.


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www.masslive.com/entertainment/republican/index...

Fans of the 1975 movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" might feel
so attached to it that they would hesitate before seeing the play,
which actually preceded the movie by a dozen years.

But the finely nuanced production at the Berkshire Theatre Festival
would lay those doubts to rest. While maintaining the anchoring role
of the rebellious hero Randall P. McMurphy immortalized by Jack
Nicholson, it shifts the focus to The Chief, who is the narrator in
Ken Kesey's 1962 novel.

The movie swept the Academy Awards, but Kesey sued the producers
because it took the viewpoint away from the character of the
schizophrenic American Indian, Chief Bromden.

Dale Wasserman, who wrote the play in 1963, is more faithful to the
original. The play provides an opportunity to see, hear and feel
Chief Bromden's vision of society as an engine that, as director Eric
Hill explains in his program notes, "robs everyone of their free
will, replaces their human interiors with rusted parts, and controls
them through retrofitted electronic devices planted in their brains."

It's a paranoid vision, but only slightly more extreme than the state
of things in the ward, which, as the doctor says to McMurphy, "is
society in miniature."

With scenic design by Karl Eigsti, lighting by Matthew E. Adelson and
sound design by J Hagenbuckle, the stark transitions between The
Chief's narration and the ward bring many senses into play. Sometimes
The Chief takes us to a shadowy world where we hear scary sounds like
cranking and grinding, and at other times he brings us to a place of
bright colors that come up behind the grated windows along with music
evoking nature and tribal ritual.

And when he returns to his inner world and the action refocuses on
the ward, the light turns harsh and white, befitting a place where
Nurse Ratched and her staff make every attempt to bleach out any
signs of personality.

The patients' individuality cannot be snuffed out, and the drama
comes when they go along willingly as McMurphy organizes a rebellion.

Under the direction of Hill (the last artistic director of StageWest,
Springfield's former resident theater company), the play effectively
establishes a tension between antic behavior and poetic sensibility.

Austin Durant embues The Chief with a quiet dignity. In the role of
McMurphy, Joseph Epstein has a swagger in his step and a glint in his
eye; he's charming and erascible at once, though perhaps too jovial
for us to totally believe in the anger that fuels his outburst and
antagonism for his nemesis, Nurse Ratched, played by Linda Hamilton
with perfectly clipped diction, a patronizing manner and a frozen
smile on her face.

The other residents include Martini (Robert Serrell), who
hallucinates and flits about the stage; Cheswick (E. Gray Simons
III), with a permanently exaggerated furrow in his brow; and the
childlike, insecure, stammering, Billy Bibbit (Randy Harrison), who
constantly plays with his shirt neck in an unsuccessful effort to
hide behind it.

They are a finely delineated, vulnerable bunch, funny and sad at the
same time and, ultimately, heartbreaking.


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myvanwy.tripod.com/companies/btf/cuckoosnest.ht...

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July, 2007

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is exactly the same enormous anti-
establishment 1960's melodrama that I remembered it to be. And I
enjoyed it thoroughly.

In an interview with a member of the BTF PR staff, playwright Dale
Wasserman noted that he had only written two highly successful
scripts � ...Cuckoo's Nest and Man of La Mancha � and that they told
exactly the same story, and he's right. Both tales deal with people
who go outside the system and the system nails them for it. Therefore
both obviously have some heavy Christian overtones, because Jesus of
Nazareth was the ultimate system-bucker, and boy, did he get nailed!
In ...Cuckoo's Nest the point is driven home rather obviously by the
almost constant presence of the lobotomized Mr. Ruckly who spends his
days spread-eagled against the back wall, convinced that his hands
have been nailed up crucifixion style.

So in case you didn't get the message, Randle P. McMurphy is a
sacrificial lamb. He gives his life so that The Chief may live.

The story is set in a very black-and-white power system � a mental
institution. The patients are not acceptable to society at large, and
the staff are. Therefore the staff are always right and the patients
are always wrong. There is no argument. The patients are officially
crazy* or they wouldn't be there. They have no real rights.

McMurphy, who is faking his mental illness to avoid jail, knows that
he isn't crazy and that he has rights, and he asserts them. It is sad
but true that in general, if you tell a group of people that they are
incompetent and have no rights, they come to believe you and behave
as if this is the truth. For the patients on this ward, McMurphy is a
reminder that they are still human beings with personal rights and
dignity. McMurphy's nemesis and the ultimate representative of The
System is Nurse Ratched. In her film incarnation, Nurse Ratched was
named the fifth greatest villain by the American Film Institute,
after Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Darth Vader and the Wicked Witch
of the West. My, my! On the stage she gets right up in your face
considerably less, but her cold clinical manipulation of human souls
is no less chilling.

In Eric Hill's fine production currently on the Main Stage at the
Berkshire Theatre Festival McMurphy is played by the very talented
Jonathan Epstein, Nurse Ratched by Linda Hamilton, star of the
Terminator movies and TV's Beauty and the Beast (there she was the
Beauty, here she is the Beast), and Chief Bromden by Austin Durant.
The entire cast is uniformly excellent, but the performances of these
three actors is key to the overall success of the production.

The minute I learned that Epstein had been cast as McMurphy, my heart
sang. Of course he would be wonderful, and he is. Epstein is capable
of generating tremendous energy and machismo, two traits key to a
successful portrayal of McMurphy. My only tiny quibble is his
eyebrows, which seem to have disappeared which I find very
disconcerting. Eyebrows exist for the sole purpose of making our
facial expressions easier to interpret, something that is especially
important in the theatre where people are trying to read faces from a
distance. I think this is a product of Epstein's eyebrows, and the
hair on his head (but not, inexplicably, his beard), having been dyed
quite a light red for this character. I think that someone should
take an eyebrow pencil and darken them up a bit.

Hamilton, who has played "ball-busting" women on film, is, in real-
life, a petite almost fragile looking woman. She plays Nurse Ratched
as a tightly controlled instrument � absolutely methodical and
unswerving in her sense of duty and power. Hamilton brings Nurse
Ratched's power from her center, rather than from any exterior show
of strength. Hamilton also suffers from bi-polar disorder and is a
public advocate for the rights of the mentally ill. I would be very
interested someday to hear her personal take on Nurse Ratched and the
system she embodies.

Durant is appropriately hulking to play the Chief, but to me he was
never convincing in his catatonia, his emerging relationship with
McMurphy, or his final arrival at a place where he is ready to go
back out into the real world. I actually worried about him as he
climbed out that window because I was convinced that this Chief was
not ready and couldn't survive.

Far stronger were the supporting "Acutes" � Randall Harrison as the
timid, stuttering Billy Bibbit; Tommy Schrider as the nervous and
effeminate Dale Harding; and Robert Serrell as the hallucinating
Martini were all excellent. Harrison's rendering of Billy's final
defeat at the hands of Nurse Ratched was brilliant and profoundly
moving. It clearly set her up as the guilty party, allowing
McMurphy's attack on her and the disaster that follows to play out
smoothly.

Stew Nantell did an excellent job as the lobotomized and frequently
crucified Ruckly. He remained firmly within his character but also
softly in the background for most of the play, a running commentary
on the system and its victims.

On a lighter note Ron Bagden was amusing as the weak-willed Dr.
Spivey, and Crystal Bock was both hilarious and touching as Candy
Starr, the "loose woman" to whom Billy loses his virginity. Floozies
are people too, and Bock never let you forget that.

Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, published in 1962,
was based on Kesey's own experiences working as an orderly in a
mental institution. Even though Wasserman has revised his 1963 sсript
several times, the play is still set in 1960 and reflects the mental
health system in place in the late 1950's. I believe this may lull
some people into thinking that places like this no longer exist.
While there have been great advances in medication for mental
illnesses, and there is some more public acceptance of and tolerance
for the mentally ill, I can tell you from personal experience that
psychiatric wards are still run on much the same social and
disciplinary system as the one depicted in the play. The legal status
of patients, voluntary and committed, is about the same too.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that it would not be hard to
find places like the ward depicted in this play all across this
country today.

Other than the Christian imagery, the other major theme in this play
is electricity. The Chief perceives the world as a giant Combine,
powered by human souls. McMurphy tries, and fails, to lift the heavy
generator box in the rec room. The Chief and McMurphy both undergo
electroshock therapy. And the scenes are opened and closed with the
sharp sound of a large electrical power grid surging on and then
winding down into rest, effects for which we have lighting designer
Matthew Adelson and sound designer/composer J Hagenbuckle to thank.

Karl Eigsti has designed a wonderful set. It looks exactly like a
room in a decaying early 20th century institution � the walls covered
in peeling layers of hideous institutional green paint � while giving
the cast many levels and nooks and crannies to play in. Nurse Ratched
and her staff rule from a raised, glassed-in booth stage right.
Again, Hagenbuckle has done a fine job of creating the muffled
quality of the miked voices that emanate from that booth, announcing
medication time or group meeting or trying futilely to bring McMurphy
into line.

For all its familiarity, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest remains a
powerful tale of the power struggle between humankind's need for
conformity and its need for individual expression. This is a great
play to see with the teenagers in your life, as it gives voice also
to the generational struggle between young and old, wisdom and
ambition. This is an exceptionally fine production. I encourage you
to go.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest runs through July 28 on the Main
Stage at the Berkshire Theatre Festival (box office 413-298-5536)
between Rts. 7 & 102 in Stockbridge. The show runs two hours and
forty minutes with one intermission and is suitable for ages 13 and
up.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 2007


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www.curtainup.com/btf07.html#One%20Flew

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


In the 1960's, the counterculture commentary and pop psychological
insights of Dale Wasserman play based on Ken Kesey's novel were no
doubt revolutionary. In 1975, the movie starring Jack Nicholson and
Louise Fletcher won its stars Oscars and again the semi-simplistic
face off between equally matched antagonists was seen as vindication
for the "us vs. them" attitude of the time period. The anti-hero was
all the rage and Randle McMurphy's sociopathic wise guy was the
perfect foil to Nurse Ratched's manipulative controlling villain of
the psychiatric ward�an obvious symbol of the greater world.

Though the thematic messages are still relevant, the play seems to
have not aged as well as we could have hoped. The current production
at the Berkshire Theatre Festival seems to lack the vitality that
could make such a predictable plot stun its audience with a deeper
quality of interpretation.

Dale Wasserman, who also wrote the book for Man of La Mancha,"focuses
on a small time criminal, Randle McMurphy, and his nemesis, Nurse
Ratched. They immediately vie for power over the ward and each other.
Ratched uses her authority to control the inmates, masking her
hostility and vindictiveness with pseudo-psychological treatment;
this serves to drive them into hopeless despair and deeper psychoses.
The other patients slowly rally to McMurphy's carefree but rebellious
attitude as he incites them to oppose Ratched and her demoralizing
tactics. Soon the inmates are actually enjoying McMurphy's antics and
the atmosphere on the ward undergoes a refreshing change. He realizes
that Nurse Ratched enjoys baiting the men and belittling them in the
group therapy sessions which have become a crippling game rather than
a therapeutic process. . McMurphy's combative and independent spirit
changes the tone of the sessions, the ward and the men's lives.

The play rehashes the formulaic clash where the downtrodden and
insane are really the heroes and the rulers are the blind, decadent
old order in need of change. Dr.Spivey is the beleaguered,
ineffectual bureaucrat who leaves the ward in Ratched's
administration rather than take her on and do his job.

The audience is involved with the actions of the various characters,
but the only one who expresses his subjective impressions of the
action swirling around him is the allegedly catatonic Chief Bromden.
In a series of monologues directed to his dead father, he observes,
using symbolic language, the hell of this white man's torture
chamber, where mind-numbing drugs, isolation, electric shock,
lobotomy and worse, boredom, are just a few of the barbarities
practiced on the inmates. His pithy statements hint at the truth of
this antiquated mental health system which in the 60's and 70's was
lagging behind the other advances in technology and medicine.
Bromden's statement "They're putting people in one end and out comes
what they want," enigmatically suggests the end of the play.

Jonathan Epstein's McMurphy is defiant and strong as he attempts to
thwart Ratched's absolute control of the ward. His McMurphy is a
likeable rogue who is used to outsmarting the system with a wink and
a smile. Ratched, played by Linda Hamilton, appears to be using the
same calming drugs administered to her patients. Her zombie-like
performance is almost a dial tone, which robs Epstein's McMurphy of
the ability to escalate into the brutal battle which is brewing.

The secondary roles are a mixture of supporting and distracting.
Randy Harrison's Billy Bibbit is especially touching as a young man
dominated by his mother, abetted by Nurse Ratched. Tommy Schrider
should be effete, but instead he is effeminate as Harding. Austin
Durant's Bromden is effective though sometimes a little too
ponderous. Jerry Krasser, E. Gray Simons III, Robert Serrell and Stew
Nantell perform well as the other inmates.

Eric Hill's direction, like Epstein's performance, is muted by
Hamilton's lack of malevolent subtext. Her prim and proper Sunday
school teacher demeanor does not allow the production to reach its
full potential. Rather it just sort of grounds to a halt as McMurphy
comes to his already obvious end.

Karl Eigsti's set depicts a properly dingy institutional ward room,
with run down mismatched furniture, as cast off as the inmates of the
day room. Ratched's booth from which she oversees the space should
dominate the center of the stage where she monitors her charges with
an omniscient eye. The drama of her big brother presence is limited
by the fact that the booth is set off to the side, where the entire
audience cannot observe her constantly observing the men. Even the
stage construction crimps the power that should emanate from such a
spiteful force. The lighting design of Matthew E. Adelson casts
effective shadows and utilizes various effects to accentuate
Bromden's interior monologues.

This was a breakthrough piece of literature in the context of its
time. Therefore, one should take the opportunity to experience it
for, despite its shortcomings, there is much to be appreciated in
this production.
�Reviewed by Gloria Miller.

Editor's Note: The play was last revived on Broadway with Gary
Senise, see Review
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
Written by Dale Wasserman, based on the novel of Ken Kesey
Directed by Eric Hill
Cast: Ron Bagden (Dr. Spivey), Sheldon Best (Aide Warren), Crystal
Bock (Candy Starr), Austin Durant (Chief Bromden), Jonathan Epstein
(Randle P. McMurphy), Linda Hamilton (Nurse Ratched), Randy Harrison
(Billy Bibbit), Jerry Krasser (Scanlon), Stew Nantell (Ruckley),
Tommy Schrider (Dale Harding), Robert Serrel (Martini)l, E. Gray
Simons III Chetswick(), Anthony Mark Stockard (Aide Williams,
Turkle), Rebecca Leigh Webber ()
Scenic Design: Karl Eigsti
Costume Design: Jessica Risser-Milne
Lighting Design: Matthew E. Adelson
Running time: 2 � hours (one intermission)
Berkshire Theatre Festival, POP Box 797, Stockbridge, MA, 413-298-
5576; www.berkshiretheatre.org
7/10/07-7/28/07; opening 7/13/07
Mon-Sat at 8 pm; Thurs and Sat at 2 pm; tickets $45-$67
Reviewed by Gloria Miller based on July 13th performance


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Danbury, CT NEWS TIMES
www.newstimeslive.com/news/story.php?id=1059761...

Theater NEWS
Jul 24 2007 4:15 AM
Classic battle of wits and wills in 'Cuckoo's Nest'
Strong drama about asylum inmates' battle against 'the system' and
cold-blooded Nurse Ratched
By Chesley Plemmons
THEATER CRITIC

Theater NEWS

Jul 24 2007 4:15 AM
Classic battle of wits and wills in 'Cuckoo's Nest'
Strong drama about asylum inmates' battle against 'the system' and
cold-blooded Nurse Ratched

By Chesley Plemmons
THEATER CRITIC

Few battles of wills are as chilling and, at the same time, as
devilishly funny as the one between Randle P. McMurphy and Nurse
Ratched. They're the protagonists in Ken Kesey's 1962 novel, "One
Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Dale Wasserman's stage adaptation, later made into an immensely
successful film, is the current production at the Berkshire Theatre
Festival is Stockbridge, Mass. Under the intensely escalating
direction of Eric Hill, Kesey's dramatic duel between a free-spirited
rebel and a controlling member of the establishment still registers
as engaging and entertaining. Somehow, however, the emotional shocks
and visceral excitement seem weaker than remembered. Perhaps in the
40-plus years since its debut, the ordinary man has rebelled so often
against bloated, self-serving authority that the edge of that
struggle is less cutting.

At any rate, "Cuckoo's Nest" will still get you cheering for the
underdogs, here defenseless inmates in a mental institution somewhere
in the Pacific Northwest, and hissing the villains -- inept,
seemingly unfeeling hospital administrators and, in particular, the
cold-blooded Nurse Ratched.

In fairness, to the subject at least, while the inmates are anti-
heroes, some sympathy should be felt for hospital workers who must
cope with willful disobedience and true psychopaths.

McMurphy, a small-time con man, cagily feigns mental illness to avoid
prison and a work gang. It's his misfortune to be assigned to a ward
supervised by Nurse Ratched, one of the theater's chilliest
villainesses.

Jonathan Epstein, a veteran and popular actor in the Berkshires,
plays McMurphy and his appearance is so altered you may look twice to
see if it's really him. With hair and sideburns dyed red and wearing
a cutoff T-shirt, Epstein looks like a toughie from the wrong side of
town.

Ratched is played by Linda Hamilton and while she cuts a chiseled
portrait she underplays to the point of passivity. It's hard to get a
verbal slugfest going, which many in the audience will anticipate
from the Jack Nicholson/Louise Fletcher film, when one of the
combatants is nearly benign. Hamilton can be forgiven much of that
for the part is written in a coolly controlling way and while the
intimacy of film makes such impressions easier to convey, the stage
requires a vocal intensity that would be in contrast to the
character. Needless to say, Ratched still remains a despised figure
and a scary one -- using drugs and discipline to wear down the
inmates' wills. Her rules forbidding laughter are diabolical.

What makes "Cuckoo's Nest" so much fun, in addition to McMurphy's
rebellious ways -- hilariously interpreted by the usually restrained
Epstein -- are the other inmates. ***Randy Harrison, who is becoming
one of this theater's sharpest players, is Billy Bibbit, a
stuttering, suicidal young man with nagging virginity issues in
addition to an unsympathetic mother. Harrison, who was so good as
Mozart in last year's "Amadeus," reveals the flip side of genius --
fear and dangerous insecurity.***

Dale Wasserman's sсript is truer to Kesey's novel than was the film
and the character of Chief Bromden (Austin Durant), a near catatonic
Indian, is returned to the center of the story. His monologues frame
the play's subtext about freedom at any cost.

Others in the colorful cast include Tommy Schrider as the effeminate
Dale Harding; Robert Serrell as the truly unhinged Martini; Stew
Nantell as Ruckly, whose Christ complex causes him to stand against
the wall "crucified"; and Jerry Krasser as Scanion, a Santa Claus-
like bomb maker.

As Candy, the easy virtue friend of McMurphy who gets slipped into
the ward for a party to deflower Billy, Crystal Bock is both teasing
and compassionate. E Grey Simons III, Anthony Mark Stockard, Ron
Bagden, Stew Best and Rebecca Leigh Webber round out the excellent
cast.

Scenic designer Karl Eigsti is responsible for the creepy sets tinged
with bluish lights. The control booth, from where Ratched supervises
the ward floor, looks like a prison watch tower and for good reason.
J Hagenbuckle's sound design is filled with the jolting sounds of
prison doors and other noises that conjure up imprisonment.

Jessica Risser-Milne's apt costumes are not likely to cause a
fashionista to call for a reservation at the hospital.

"Cuckoo's Nest" is essential a man's drama and the strong
performances by Epstein, Harrison, Durant and the other nutty, not-so
nutty characters makes turning the tables on Nurse Ratched and
the "system," or "Combine" as the Chief likes to call it, seem an
easy business.

Despite its many pluses, this production could use more of a good
fight.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" plays through Saturday at the
Berkshire Theatre Festival, Main Street, Stockbridge. Performances
are tonight through Saturday at 8 p.m. and matinees Thursday and
Saturday at 2. Tickets are $37 to $64. Students with ID receive 50
percent discount. Call the box office at (413) 298-5576 or purchase
online at www.berkshiretheatre.org.


*********


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One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Dale Wasserman, based on the novel by Ken Kesey. Directed by Eric Hill
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman



In Eugene, Oregon, I discovered during an early June visit, there is a memorial statue to the writer, Ken Kesey. He is seated on a bench reading to children. Presumably he is NOT reading excerpts from his scathing novel about the treatment of mental patients in an institution just invaded by a faker named Randle P. McMurphy, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." For a perspective in the play, read on.

"...working to restore you to the outside."

Go inside the mind of an Indian chief who has been diminished by the world he knows into a hulking shell of a man, a shell that communicates internally but not externally. See the world of denial through his eyes and experience the lust of a man for size, and nothing more, the restoration of his stature in the world. That is what Dale Wasserman, the playwright who brought us this adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, would like us to know, from the inside out. He wants us to feel what this indian chief feels. He finally allows us to know the reasons why Chief Bromden has taken refuge inside himself, behind his mind, behind his abilities. One more thing this playwright and novelist team have accomplished: they bring the chief a gift, a man named McMurphy, a gift in human form who opens the doorway to his capabilities, his capacities to achieve stature. It’s an incredible gift.

In its initial run on Broadway the gift was played by Kirk Douglas, a man whose notorious grin has been seen on the face of maniacs; it was a smile that gave away his own character’s madness. In the movie, Jack Nicholson in the same role brought that overly familiar grimace that nowadays screams "Here’s Johnny" to anyone familiar with his other edge of madness role in that Stephen King film.

On the mainstage at the Berkshire Theatre Festival we have Jonathan Epstein who embraces the role of McMurphy with a full face smile that is sometimes one of genuine amusement, sometimes a cover for other emotions. In fact, that smile may be as memorable as the other two in my memory because of its variation, its ability to astound, confuse or ingratiate. Epstein’s smile, his grin, his grimace is the key to his interpretation of this role and it is one of the finest performances of his local career.

He is joined by an exceptional cast in this large cast show. Linda Hamilton, with a smile of her own that seems to convey anything but amusement, is Nurse Ratched. Her control, both of her emotions and her intent, is alarming as she warmly encourages participation from the inmates in her ward of the asylum while already prepared to bring them down with her concept of discipline. Hamilton is startlingly strong as she encourages McMurphy to fail by insisting that he succeed. She is almost, but never quite, a charmer.

Austin Durant as Chief Bromden almost walks away with the show. This actor has become one of my favorites in just two seasons. I am pleading with the management of the BTF to promise me and the public that they will always find a role for him in each and every season. As the man who want to restore himself but has no tools to use, he is both compelling and engaging. His power is not in his size but in his honesty. Even the craziest internal monologues he has a genuine spirit that carries his performance to a higher plane of reality. Once he becomes a participant in the plot of the play he rips our hearts to shreds as he engages with his cohorts and finds himself again.

That emotional resolution is denied to Billy Bibbit, played with warmth and with physical frustrations by Randy Harrison in what I think is his finest work on this stage. He has a moment in the second act where his Billy is almost whole again and when he loses it, crumples it up and throws it away at the feet of Nurse Ratched, it is one of the most touching and heart-rending moments in this highly emotional play.

Crystal Bock is a wonderful Candy Starr, the prostitute who "mock-marries" Billy. Robert Serrell is a wonderful Martini, making us see what he sees. E. Gray Simons, III turns Cheswick’s anger and angst into mini-monuments that crumble into dust the instant they are erected. Tommy Schrider give Dale Harding all of the peculiarities he can, both physical and vocal and leaves an indelible impression. The entire ensemble delivers nicely. It’s a joy to watch them play out their mental and physical disabilities.

But at the center of it all is McMurphy. Epstein’s performance, as already noted, is his very best work in a long time. Under Eric Hill’s classic direction of this play, McMurphy takes second place to the indian chief, a balance that has been hard to achieve in previous productions. Hill and Epstein allow him to be the fulcrum in this eerie balance board of a work. Often taking center stage for his bigger moments, he melds into the picture when necessary. Hill brings Bromden to the forefront slowly over time, even though we are seeing the whole McMurphy experience through the chief’s eyes. When he and McMurphy finally connect it is moving and when they play their final scene together, mute and emotional, it is devastating.

This is tough theater. This is hard, biting satirical drama. There are laughs, but they are often uncomfortable laughs. There are tears, but they linger behind the eyes. There is sense in all the nonsense and silliness in the tragedies that shouldn’t be. There are also cliches, but what are those if not realities we’re accustomed to in our own lives. Reality is on the stage in Stockbridge and it's alive with possibility.
◊07/14/2007◊



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One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Berkshire Theater Festival Review
By Keisha7

Jonathan Epstein, Linda Hamilton, Sheldon Best, and Anthony Mark Stockard in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the infamous tug-of-war between the not so crazy upstart Randle P. McMurphy and Nurse Ratchet, the head Nurse of a ward for the mental ill in an institution circa 10906. McMurphy thinks he'll get out of doing five months hard labor by spending five months in the loony bin. After all, how hard could it be to act crazy, right?
McMurphy (Jonathan Epstein) finds himself locked up with the acutely mentally ill patients run by tyrannically stern Nurse Ratchet . Right away, McMurphy introduces cards with naked ladies and gambling and ideas like independent thought into the ward of misfits. He suggests exercising the democracy of this "democratic ward." But most of all, he wishes to "pull the plug" on that head nurse.

Linda Hamilton in Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Main Stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
In this production, Nurse Ratchet (Linda Hamilton) makes no dispersion of her motives. There is no question of whether her character feels she is doing all this for the good of the mental ill patients. This Nurse Ratchet is about control and manipulation of the weak, emasculating the patients with shame - or as she likes to put it "Cooperation and order." She sees this McMurphy as an immediate threat to her domain.

Austin Durant in Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Main Stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The point of view of Dale Wasserman's stage version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the narrative voice of the strong and silent Chief Bromden (Austin Durant). Assumed deaf and mute, Bromden communes nightly with his dead father, depicted in the production by Durant standing isolated under a harsh twisting spotlight while eerie, metallic drones give voice to what Bromden calls, "The Combine". The Combine symbolizes all things mechanically and unnatural, such as electric shock therapy in the Disturbed Ward. The unnatural, things without a soul are what destroyed Bromden's father and what he fears the most.
This mental ward is comprised of the usual suspects, as it were. Dale Harding (Tommy Schrider) is the obsessive neurotic, harboring homosexual inclinations which prevent him from satisfying his wife with the giant "knockers". Spastic Martini (Robert Serrell) is a compulsive who feels compelled to close all distances by running full speed from Point A to Point B. That is, when he's not hallucinating a conversation with one of the imaginary people in the room.

Tommy Schrider, Robert Serrell, Jonathan Epstein, E. Gray Simons III, and Randy Harrison in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Billy Bibbit (Randy Harrison) is a man-boy with a stutter and suicidal tendencies, fueled by feelings of persecution from the outside world that laughs at him and his damning, disapproving mother. Scanlon (Jerry Krasser) is the elderly bombmaker and Ruckly (Stew Nantell), the only Chronic in the ward, is a catatonic with a Christ complex. Ruckly stands "crucified" against the wall everyday, a constant reminder of what happens to patients who do not obey Nurse Ratched.

Jonathan Epstein and Crystal Bock in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To say that McMurphy has a kind heart, may be a bit of an overstatement. However, Epstein's portrayal is that of the definitive reluctant hero. He enters into the power play with Ratchet strictly as a gambling man, as an amusement and what he thinks is easy money. But he never intended for his sense of morality to engage. Several times the McMurphy character forsakes the cause of empowering the inmates when he reexamines what he personally has to lose. But in the end, he can't help but stand up for those who can not stand up for themselves. Or as Chief Bromden so eloquently put it, "How can I be big if you're not?"
McMurphy's ultimate display of defiance is to throw a party where his hooker friend Candy (played by the lovely Crystal Bock) will relieve Billy Bibbit of his virginity.

Randy Harrison and Jonathan Epstein in Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Main Stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The face off between McMurphy and Ratchet is a good one. Epstein and Hamilton seem equally matched in their metaphoric roles of good and evil, conformity versus free-spiritedness, with each character possessing their own unique devices to win the favor and minds of the patients on the ward. Even until late in the second act, you're not sure who is going to win this war of wills (unless of course you come in knowing how it ends).
All of the inmate performances were sufficiently accompanied by physical ticks from knit-picking and thread chewing to the classic random screaming of expletives. However, for me, Tommy Schrider is the stand out star of this ensemble.

Tommy Schrider in Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Main Stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
As the hyper-neurotic Dale Harding, he is the leader, the spokesman and "Biggest Nutjob" in the ward; that is until McMurphy comes along. And even after, Schrider's Harding is a contradiction whose body crumbles into a cower on cue one moment, then manages to credibly grows a backbone right in the nick of time. He is forgivable flamboyant and surprisingly lucid if you can just follow along on his rants until he gets to the end of his flowery expositions. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of Schrider's performance. Well done.
Perhaps the best compliment to performance was given during the "talk back" session with the actors following the July 16th show. An audience member said "Where is that middle-aged gentlemen from the second act. I don't see him up on stage there. He was really great."

Anthony Mark Stockard in Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Main Stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
As it turns out, the actor was on stage. That compliment was extended to Alabama State Grad Anthony Mark Stockard. The actor performed a dual role as young, menacing Aide Williams, and hunched over, elderly night Aide Turkle whose rich a cappella renditions of 60s pop tunes (such as Fatso Domino's Blueberry Hill) was a delightful dab of sweetness within the play. It's true, he was very good. I look forward to seeing more of Stockard's work (playing young or old).
Kudos to Karl Eigisti's scenic design where chain-link fencing feigned the illusion of stained glass against lavender colored "glass" and a day room in a mental institution where the color, and the life of the space are slowly fading away.

The set in Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Main Stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
J Hagenbuckle's sound design does a splendid job of tracking Chief Bromden's spiritual re-awakening. The play's soundtrack moves from the brutal cranking sound of machinery and drones, to the organic bellowing of wind and rushing of water, to the playing of the tribe flute over the course of the two acts. Very nice touch.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the second of four Main Stage productions for the 79th season of the Berkshire Theater Festival. The show is currently running through July 28, 2007.
Berkshire Theater Festival
6 Main Street
Stockbridge, MA 01262
For Ticket information:
Order online 24 hours a day
or call Summer Box Office: 413-298-5576
info@berkshiretheatre.org
www.berkshiretheatre.org/index.php

Photo Credit: Kevin Sprague


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07.25.07 theater

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the Berkshire Theatre Festival
Tucked away in the mountains at the Massachusetts-New York border, the Berkshire Theatre Festival is a hidden treasure of Northeast regional theater. In the midst of its 79th season, the company mixes lesser-known and experimental works with theatrical standards, such as its current production of Dale Wasserman's stage version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which runs through July 28th.

The play and the Ken Kesey novel that inspired it are, of course, no longer what the general public thinks of when they hear the title of this seminal work. That privilege is reserved for Miloš Forman's 1975 film version. The Festival's staging, however, emerges from the shadow of that cinematic staple to stand in its own right as a powerful depiction of rebellion in the face of unthinking order.

The capable and assured direction of Festival mainstay Eric Hill brings to life a mental ward of the early 1960s, where the inmates live in fear of the autocratic Nurse Ratched (Linda Hamilton). It is a credit to Hill and his ensemble that this familiar story does not become dull or predictable, even if one knows what is going to happen as felon and con artist Randle P. McMurphy (Jonathan Epstein) arrives and begins to shake up Ratched's cultivated status quo.

Hill takes advantage of scenic designer Karl Eigsti's confined playing space to highlight the nature of imprisonment and its effect on McMurphy and his fellow patients. The actors are in constant motion around the stage, ping-ponging from one end or level to another, searching for breaches that do not exist. With McMurphy as a catalyst, the entire ensemble begins to release the emotional and physical energy that this ceaseless activity has created, with results alternately thought-provoking and explosive.

The lead actors, for their part, bring to their roles a novel approach that is vital in escaping the indelible portrayals of Forman's film. Hamilton, best known to audiences for her depiction of Sarah Connor in the Terminator films, creates a Ratched that is almost kind in her cruelty, truly believing that she is doing right by her patients with her probing of their emotions and tortuous imposition of discipline. Epstein, meanwhile, plays McMurphy as a physical brute, more shrewd than smart, his manic grin and rapid-fire jokes covering for his fear that he may have gotten in over his head.

If there is another tentpole supporting this tragic circus besides Hamilton and Epstein, however, it is most certainly Austin Durant as Chief Bromden, the deaf-mute Native American who, in both the novel and play, narrates events at the asylum. Hill stages these monologues with Durant alone on stage, bathed in otherworldly light as he speaks of the mechanical social conformity he calls "the Combine" over the distant grinding of machines (kudos to J. Hagenbuckle's evocative sound design). Durant's chameleonic intensity and depiction of Bromden's gradual return to agency strike the necessary chord of tension and import. Only recently graduated from college, Durant promises to bring a magnetic presence and abundance of talent to the stage for years to come.

The rest of the ensemble make their presence felt as well. Of particular note is Tommy Schrider as Dale Harding, flamboyant president of the patients' council. Somewhat less remarkable is Randy Harrison's (Queer As Folk, Wicked) turn as Billy Bibbit, the stuttering, suicidal neurotic. Harrison brings little that is unexpected to the role of Billy, doing a serviceable job but never probing beneath the text to summon nuance or originality.

Overall, the Berkshire Theatre Festival's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a marvelous staging of the piece. A product of its time, it somehow never feels dated. Its message of social discontent and the costs and rewards of freedom are as relevant today as when Kesey put pen to paper forty-five years ago, and Hill and his company have created a powerful reminder of those truths.

— Patrick Hume

@темы: theatre, 2007

   

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