‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ a Loony-Bin Success

May 22, 2009

The latest offering from the Little Theatre Group (LTG) delves bravely into a topic that’s both dark and surprisingly humorous. In “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the troupe brings to life Ken Kesey’s famous critique of psychiatric methods.

The author based his 1962 novel on his own experience working the graveyard shift at an asylum in California.

The story follows a new admission, R.P. McMurphy – a jovial soul whose records suggest he may be faking mental illness to get away from a work camp – as he learns his way around the ward, challenges the tyrannical Nurse Rached, and struggles for his own dignity and that of his fellow patients.

Kesey’s novel, of course, went on to become a great film. It’s hard to watch any other adaptation without remembering the Oscar-winning performances of Jack Nicholson as McMurphy and Louise Fletcher as Nurse Rached, both of whom left an indelible mark on their respective characters.

However, the LTG actors who ably fill these shoes leave a mark all their own. Tom Humes as McMurphy gives a vibrant, larger than-life performance, bringing us along with him as he grapples with the twisted world he has entered. And Caroline Van Moorsel as Nurse Rached, with her droning condescension, makes the audience want to throttle her – which, given the way the plot unfolds, is just what she’s aiming for.

The performances of some of the lesser characters in this ensemble cast are what give the show its heart. Josh Archer, as the stuttering Billy, deftly handles a challenging role, and Dave Nisson stands out with an understated, sweet performance as the charming Cheswick. Nisson and Jonathan Mora, as patient-association leader Harding, show a nimble touch for comedy and provide a levity that helps the audience deal with the darker moments – a balance that veteran director Sally O’Boyle surely helped create as well.

These actors, along with the rest of the ragtag group of patients (played by Miguel Zúñiga, Gunther Gorny, Mike Firment and Wayne Dawson as the towering Chief) develop camaraderie and solidarity before our eyes as the show builds steam, so that the eventual sacrifices they make for each other are believable, touching and well worth watching.

The play runs through June 8 at the Laurence Olivier Theater off Paseo Colón, next to Sala Garbo. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. For reservations, call 8355-1623 or visit www.littletheatregroup.org.

 

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