November 10, 2015 > Ohlones Cuckoo a captivating night of theatre
Ohlones Cuckoo a captivating night of theatre
By Julie Grabowski
The Combine is always at work on people. It beats them down, makes them little, forces them into submission. This is the lament of Chief Bromden, a patient in a mental institution helmed by the cool, iron grip of Nurse Ratched. Life is running according to Ògood for youÓ policies and group therapy sessions when the flamboyant and defiant Randle Patrick McMurphy arrives.
Admitted for passionate, lawless behavior at the work farm that has gotten him labeled a psychopath, McMurphy challenges Nurse RatchedÕs law and order, cheerfully flouting the rules and infusing the ward with gambling, alcohol, women, and an unquenchable spirit that enlivens the other men. As the battle between the two escalates with increasingly serious consequences, Nurse Ratched makes an unthinkable final power play that changes everything.
Originally written by Ken Kesey and adapted into a play by Dale Wasserman, ÒOne Flew Over the CuckooÕs NestÓ has made a lasting impact wherever it has struck. Over 9 million books have been sold, the 1975 film staring Jack Nicholson took home all five of the top Academy Awards, and the 2001 Broadway revival won the Tony Award.
Ohlone CollegeÕs Theatre and Dance Department continues the tradition, delivering a gripping production under the direction of Michael Navarra that excels in every avenue. In addition to choosing a play that is relevant today, Navarra says the theatre department also looks for material that they think students and the audience will resonate with, and that will be interesting and challenging for the technical theatre department. ÒOne Flew Over the CuckooÕs NestÓ scores on all accounts, from the excellent scenic design (George F. Ledo), lighting (Matthew OÕDonnell), and sound (Fred Alim) to the dynamic storytelling by an outstanding cast.
With seating staged around three sides of the already intimate Nummi Studio Theatre and no one more than five seats away from the set, the audience is made to feel as if they are part of the play. and suffering alongside the characters. Crippled more by their fear and subjugation than their diagnoses, the characters are diverse and compelling; you root for them, feel their pains, and bursts of joy, and you want them to triumph.
Matt Monaco is an electric powerhouse as McMurphy; his passion and stamina drive the play and have you immediately on his side. In contrast, Stacey Lynn Bell is a calmly imposing Nurse Ratched who only needs a stern eye to let you know where you stand. As Chief Bromden, who has been diagnosed as catatonic, Jess Martinez evokes both a tortured depth and touching child-like quality that makes you want to stand alongside McMurphy to convince him that he is indeed big enough for the difficulties of life.
An excellent group of young men comprise the patient roster, Tim Garcia (Dale Harding), Idrees Najibi (Billy), John Vargas (Scanlon), Kyle Goldman (Cheswick), Brian Simms (Martini), and Amir Hasan (Ruckly) creating a vibrant brotherhood. Garcia is sharp and winning in his dialogue and interaction with Monaco, and Najibi stirs the heart with BillyÕs speech difficulties and fear of a domineering mother. Simms is a bright spot as the hallucinating Martini, and while on the outskirts of the action, Hasan bears noting as he creates great presence in a difficult role.
The themes of power and control, courage and individuality, and the fight for dignity in the face of the ever pressing ÒsystemÓ and evils of humanity are enduring subjects that Navarra and his cast bring powerfully to life. ÒOne Flew Over the CuckooÕs NestÓ shows what great theatre is all about and is an experience that shouldnÕt be missed.
As we move through our own world of doubts, trials, and oppression, ChiefÕs question to McMurphy is one that can be asked of all of us: ÒAre you going to back down?Ó
One Flew Over the CuckooÕs Nest
Friday, Nov 6 - Saturday, Nov 21
(ASL Interpreted performance Nov 14)
Smith Center at Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd, Fremont
Tickets: $12 general admission, $10 student/senior/youth