WFIU’s George Walker’s Review:
“Mike Price was born to play the energetic schemer McMurphy… Constance Macy does a fine job with Nurse Ratched. Roderick Peeples was outstanding as the avuncular Dale Harding. Allan Craig was a standout… A masterful piece of theater!”
Indianpolis’ Jay Harvey of Jay Harvey Upstage Review:
“Exuberantly staged, sensitively handled… As Price plays him, (McMurphy) is a galvanic force throughout. Nurse Ratched (is) played with steely severity by Constance Macy. Jeremy Proulx’s performance had the wounded stature it needs.”
The Herald-Times Review:
Cardinal’s stellar cast takes on ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’
By Matthew Waterman
February 16, 2016
It’s rare to find a story that succeeds on the page, the stage and the screen. Prose that captivates in a novel is often dull when theatricalized. Snappy stage dialogue frequently falls flat in front of a camera.
A skillfully crafted adaptation, though, can minimize that which is lost in translation from one medium to another. A skillfully crafted adaptation can even mine a story for value that wasn’t there before.
Among the few stories that have been told effectively as books, films and plays is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Ken Kesey’s LSD-inspired 1962 novel was groundbreaking counterculture at its release. Today, it’s one of the most studied and best-known works of American literature.
The popularity of “Cuckoo’s Nest” is partly due to Milos Forman’s 1975 film version. That movie, starring Jack Nicholson, was only the second in history to win all five major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Lead Role, Best Actress in a Lead Role, Best Screenplay and Best Director.
The film was so acclaimed as to overshadow Dale Wasserman’s earlier stage adaptation, which premiered on Broadway in 1963. Wasserman’s intelligently constructed script receives a production by Cardinal Stage Company, directed by Randy White.
The story is set in a long-stay mental institution. The patients of the ward range from high-functioning sufferers of curable mental illnesses to lobotomized catatonics.
The action gets underway with the arrival of Randle P. McMurphy, a run-of-the-mill criminal who seems to have feigned insanity for a more tolerable sentence.
McMurphy quickly becomes the troublemaking ringleader of the ward. He spearheads rebellion against the strict and abusive operations of the institution, much to the dismay of Nurse Ratched, the patients’ primary caretaker and supervisor.
Tangled up in the drama is “Chief” Bromden, a Native American whose well-being has been ravaged by an amalgam of oppressive forces that he refers to as “The Combine.” Bromden spends years in the ward pretending to be deaf and mute.
Wasserman’s adaptation trims down the cast of characters and sets all scenes in the common room of the ward. Chief Bromden does not narrate the play as he does the novel, but Wasserman writes him a series of soliloquies that seem of little relevance until the narrative satisfyingly coheres in the second act.
Mike Price is gregarious and charismatic as McMurphy. McMurphy’s actions are undoubtedly manipulative, exploitative and harmful to the less mentally sound patients, but Price’s McMurphy is likeable. The character’s shady past and skeevy present easy to forget when watching him work his magic.
Perhaps it is only in comparison to Nurse Ratched’s crushing severity that McMurphy appeals to us. Constance Macy gives a tight, icy performance in the role.
Toronto-based actor Jeremy Proulx shines in the part of Chief Bromden. Although McMurphy is the protagonist, Bromden is the one we feel for the most at the end of “Cuckoo’s Nest.” Proulx’s approach is tender and truthful.
The show’s cast is, on the whole, stellar. The portrayal of mentally disabled characters is a perennial challenge for even the most masterful actors. The ensemble of “Cuckoo’s Nest” handles the challenge respectfully and convincingly.
Scenic designer Mark Smith converted the Whikehart Auditorium of the Waldron Arts Center into a highly realistic and spacious common room of a mental institution. With the audience entrance upstage, the venue is configured in an unusual but effective way.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” delivers in all respects; White’s direction, the acting performances and the production design do justice to the script. Fans of the book or movie need not lower expectations for this production.