Randall McMurphy is a small-time hood who thinks he’s stumbled onto the perfect racket. To get out of slaving away on a work farm for five months, he cons a sympathetic doctor into giving him a diagnosis that he may be psychotic. As a result, he thinks he’s going to spend that time in a comfortable hospital filled with quirky characters. But he could not be more wrong. For one, since he’s been sent there under court orders, his sentence isn’t up in five months; he’s there until the doctor and head nurse say he’s cured. And he is about to meet the woman of his nightmares—Nurse Ratched.
For those not familiar with the story from the book or the wildly popular movie starring Jack Nicholson, this play may at first seem like a feel-good romp about a fox in a henhouse full of easy marks, but as the story progresses, the tone darkens. Without giving away the ending, this is not a story that ends well.
Charles Wilcox as McMurphy is appropriately loud and obnoxious. His performance is not exactly subtle, but then again, neither is the character. McMurphy is a bit of a bull elephant who is used to getting his way through deception and plain brute force. His character definitely meets his match in Rena Swearingen’s Nurse Ratched, known somewhat less than affectionately to McMurphy by a nickname that I cannot repeat in polite company but sounds very much like the waste material of a common household pest. Swearingen’s performance is on par with Wilcox’s and they are appropriate counterpoints for each other.
The secondary characters present performances that complement those of the two main adversaries. Easily the strongest portrayals are Jeff Walker as Chief Bromden and Zech Suprano as Billy Bibbit. Walker’s Chief is in many ways the backbone of the piece, as we occasionally hear the psychotic screaming rambles that go on in his head between scenes. That cacophony quiets as he spends time with McMurphy and rediscovers his mind and manhood. The scenes with Chief alone have great impact, aided by solid visual and sound effects. Suprano’s Bibbitt is a tortured soul who lives his entire life trying to get out from under the thumb of his overly critical mother. His stutter is quite convincing and his change of demeanor after a romantic interlude with a woman sneaked into the hospital is striking.
Speaking of the hospital, the set is quite impressive, as are the previously mentioned special effects connected with Chief’s interior monologues. The ways the lighting effects reflected Chief’s thoughts were impactful.
The show opens on Friday, March 9, with subsequent evening performances on March 10, 16, 17, 23, and 24, with a 3:00pm matinee on Sunday, March 18. Tickets are available for $7 for youth under 17, $12 for adults and $10 for seniors 60+/students. They are available at www.MOVP.org, the Marietta-Washington County CVB, Marty’s Print Shop and the theater box office prior to showtime. Contact the box office at 740-374-9434.