One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The uniformly excellent cast brought an agonizingly grim and ghastly realism to this group of patients in the Crighton Players’ “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next” which recently closed at the Owen Theatre. ap

Posted: Friday, July 30, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 10:25 pm, Sat Nov 20, 2010.

I believe it has been about 10 years since I saw the Alley Theatre production of Dale Wasserman’s disturbingly brilliant play, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Memory fades, of course, but I cannot imagine that the Alley version was any more skillfully produced than that just presented by the Crighton Players at Conroe’s Owen Theatre. With a flawless cast, and the equally flawless direction of Don Hampton, this “Cuckoo” was a real winner. My one regret is that a recent trip out of town prevented my seeing it in time to advise readers not to miss it before last weekend’s close.

The plot, based on the novel by Ken Kesey, is a troubling one as it takes place in a psychiatric hospital full of confused souls who have apparently lost their way. But a new patient, Randle P. McMurphy (a stunning performance from Bill Geffen), is a kind of hustler who suddenly arrives to energize these sad mental patients and mischievously turn their ward on its head. He very quickly locks horns with the cruel and heartless head nurse, Miss Ratched (a deliciously evil characterization from Brandi Baldwin). The sometimes comic, sometimes tragic events that follow played out on the appropriately sterile and very authentic set design from Master Carpenter Wes Bush and Lead Carpenter Jason Wright. Dramatic lighting (Roger Ormiston/Sherry Sellers) and special effects (David Fitzgibbons) punctuate many scenes. Beverly Townsend’s costumes add to the realism of this sad world, and musical interludes offer ironic touches such as Roy Orbison’s, “Only the Lonely.”

The uniformly excellent cast brings an agonizingly grim and ghastly realism to this group of patients. There are wonderful performances from Trevor Hall as the sweet, stuttering, Billy Bobbit in search of his manhood, Rick Sellers as the endlessly twitching, fidgeting and giggling, Scanlon, Craig Campobella as Martini, Dale Trimble as Buckley and Mike Ragan as Cheswick. There was heroic work from both W. Ryan Willingham (who brilliantly took over the role of Dale Harding for a cast member called out of town), and from Micah Taylor in the pivotal role of Chief Bromden, the gigantic, troubled, and most-often silent Indian who links various scenes together when stage lights dim and he stands in the spotlight delivering numerous touching soliloquies addressed to his late father, as he recalls the waterfalls, melting snow, and jumping salmon of happier days on their reservation before a government takeover.

The hospital staff was also well cast with Steve Murphree, Dan Tippen, and Luke Cowan as aides, Megan Nix as nervous Nurse Flinn, and John Ogden as the compassionate Dr. Spivey who tries to resist Nurse Rached’s cruelty toward the patients. Taking the edge off all this sadness are the lively performances of Lindsay Morris and Jennifer Marshall as the good-time girls McMurphy has smuggled into the ward for a late night party.

Two of “chronic” patients  Joe Kobb and Jim Murph of  the Crighton Players’ “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next”. ap


One other touch added to the very realistic atmosphere established in this production. Four of the patients are so severely mentally disabled they cannot function more than to simply sleep, slump in their chairs or stare blankly into space. Skillfully acting the parts of these “chronic” patients were Joe Kolb, Jim Walker, Butch Walker and Jim Murph. May I say that doing nothing has never been done so well!