Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Beck Center for the Arts
Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's review of The Woman in Black


George Roth, Tony Zanoni, Steve Oleksa,
Jeremy Gladen, Bryant Carroll, and Minor Cline

Photo by Kathy Sandham
When the 1963 play One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (taken from the 1962 Ken Kesey novel of the same name) hit Broadway, it lasted for one preview and 82 performances and starred Kirk Douglas as Randle P. McMurphy and Gene Wilder as Billy Bibbit. Since then it has had numerous revivals and has become a staple for theater companies across the country.

Technically, this is a difficult play to pull off. The characters became recognizable to the public after the popular film version in 1975 starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy and Danny DeVito as Martini. The set is period-specific, with furniture and props right out of the 1950s and early '60s. The well-worn story needs to flow rapidly from scene to scene and the final scenes need to carry an "edge of your seat" impact to bring the play to its dramatic finish. Look no further than the Beck Center for the Arts to shine in all of the aforementioned categories.

To begin with, the set is so believable that it should be named as a cast member in the program. It has that stale, streaky appearance of a long forgotten hospital ward that has not seen a renovation ever in its long history. There are also some surprises as lights and sounds are used to give emphasis to the Chief's dramatic hallucination scenes. The walled space above the nursing station opens to reveal the "shock shop" where the Chief and McMurphy are "treated" with electroconvulsive therapy after attacking one of the orderlies.

Life goes blissfully along in a state mental Hospital in the Pacific Northwest as inmates line up for their daily doses of mind-numbing medications dispensed by iron-fisted Nurse Ratched (Katie DeBoer) and her mean spirited staff. With the arrival of Randle P. McMurphy (Bryant Carroll), the power dynamics suddenly shift as con man McMurphy plots to take control over the inmates. McMurphy has landed at the hospital in order to shirk the physical labor required at the county workhouse where he was serving a sentence for statutory rape of a 15-year-old.

A battle of wills soon ensues as McMurphy introduces gambling, indoor basketball, the World Series, and numerous other hijinks designed to anger Nurse Ratched. McMurphy befriends an inmate known as the Chief who appears to be deaf and dumb but McMurphy soon sees through his scheme. Tensions peak when two girlfriends of McMurphy break into the hospital to party with the residents and Randle. Candy Starr takes a liking to virgin inmate Billy Bibbit who suffers from a total lack of self esteem.

Bryant Carroll as Randle P. McMurphy fills the part extremely well, with all the fake bravado needed. He is the bad boy you root for. Jeremy Gladen as the stuttering Billy Bibbit (one of the more challenging parts to play) does so believably well. Katie DeBoer as Nurse Ratched is in total control of her role and the situation as she uses an aggressive/passive technique to influence those around her. Maurice Cole as Chief Bromden gives a carefully measured performance as he slowly peels back the layers of the character to reveal his true personality. George Roth as the paranoid Dale Harding gracefully relinquishes his assumed control of the day room when he realizes he is no match for McMurphy. In fact, all of cast do outstanding representations of the mentally disturbed and their keepers.

Sound effects and lighting are used dramatically throughout the work to emphasize the various forms of mental illness and treatment being suffered.

Using every inch of the large Mackey Theater stage, this larger than life drama is must see theater for all. No matter how many times you have seen the play or the movie you will witness with fresh eyes this unfolding drama of a battle of the wills.

Although filled with adult themes and sexual situations, the play is void of bad language. It would be a good experience for families with older children of maturity.

The Beck Center for the Arts production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest will be on stage in the Mackey Theater through October 8, 2017. Tickets may be purchased online at www.beckcenter.org or by phone by calling (216) 521-2540 or by stopping by the ticket office at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio.


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