One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest A Preview

If you’re planning on seeing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest this weekend, be aware that you will not be merely seeing a play—you’ll be living it. That’s right, Tang Theatre has been transformed into a fully-operational, brightly-lit insane asylum. Directed by Mark Efinger, with the help of four student directors (Ryan Morris ’09, Lily Shaffer ’10, Rei Konolige ’10, and Alex Gottfried ’09), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is this term’s Theatre 520 production—and definitely a production to remember. The 1964 stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s 1959 acclaimed novel of the same name tells the story of Randle Patrick McMurphy (famously played by Jack Nicholson in the film version), an undoubtedly sane man who cheats the system, avoiding hard labor on a work farm and instead finds himself in an insane asylum somewhere in Oregon. Little does he know, however, what is in store for him. Efinger’s interpretation of Cuckoo’s Nest is all about a full-immersion theatergoing experience. As soon as you arrive at the theatre, you’ll be presented with a ticket in the form of an admission wristband. When you enter through Tang’s doors, nurses are present to take any of your personal belongings. Ward attendants will show you to your seats as loud, ethereal music drones out the theatre—or ward. Glance to where the stage manager’s booth usually sits, and you’ll see a commanding nurses’ office complete with glass sliding windows. Two large, barred windows stand opposite the nurses’ station, on the edge of Tang’s general proscenium. If you choose to sit on the limited ground seating, get used to wooden bleachers and the possibility of interaction with the cast, since, on the ground floor especially, each audience member is not a member of the audience, but a member of Nurse Ratched’s ward. Chief Bromden (Reid Mosquera ’09), a tall and burly Native American who everyone assumes to be deaf and dumb, serves as the story’s narrator through inner-monologue sequences positioned in between scenes on the ward. Sound and lighting effects work well together during Bromden’s monologue. The audience hears the dull hum of the “machine” that controls the asylum, what Bromden refers to as the “Combine.” All the asylum’s lights fade to black and a sole spotlight follows Bromden around, creating an eerie mood to Bromden’s often cryptic monologues. Unsettling and haunting music often pervades the air, much of which was created entirely by Andover students, notably Andi Zhou ’09 playing the saw. During the day room scenes, the audience hears repetitions of jolly music akin to Lawrence Welk, and the audience sees no distinction between stage lights and house lights, a series of large fluorescent lights encompasses the theater. This lighting choice furthers the evaporation of the fourth wall—the invisible wall between the audience and the actor. When most people think of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, they remember the evil wrath of Nurse Ratched. Sadiqa Farrow ’09 tackles this challenging role with a great sense of control and subtlety. Many high school actresses might take Nurse Ratched’s evil nature in a completely exaggerated direction, but Farrow will frighten you not by a wicked witch impersonation, but by her silently scathing, matter-of-fact portrayal. The story’s central character, McMurphy, suits Shaun Stuer ’09 quite well, as the ward’s boisterous, playful hero. Look forward to other memorable characters throughout the show, including the lovable Billy Bibbit (Kennedy Edmonds ’12), the rambling academic Dale Harding (Scott Sanderson ’09) and the vociferous follower Cheswick (Sam Dodge ’09). Come see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for its hilarious lineup of loonies, its exemplary technical components, an engaging set and its moving and crushing conclusion, one which will have you speechless as you gather your belongings, slit off your wristband and are discharged from the ward.