Preview: Cuckoo’s Nest

Preview: Cuckoo’s Nest

Preview: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Church Hill Theatre

Written by:Steve Atkinson     Written on:September 8, 2016 

I have often written previews for upcoming productions at Church Hill Theatre. But this preview of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which opens on September 9, 2016 comes from a slightly different perspective than usual.

As someone who many years ago was active in theater productions, I decided to audition for a part in the show. It was as a step in getting back to working with theater productions, since when I auditioned it was only the 2nd time I had done so since the late 1970’s.

As a photographer I have shot some publicity photos for the theater in the past, most notably their production of Visit to a Small Planet earlier this year. I was asked to take some for Once Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and have continued to photograph rehearsals as a way to document the progression of the production. And also for me to get a feel on how a production progresses. It was an unique and enjoyable experience, I must say.

The play was written by Dale Wasserman and is based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel. The movie with Jack Nicholson was also based on the book and is somewhat different than the play. It is set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital in the early 1960’s. A time in our mental health history that we now would consider barbaric.

Director Michael Whitehill vision for the production has been broad and expanse and he has worked tirelessly on the set, lighting and with the actors to bring a high quality show to the Church Hill Theatre.

He has assembled a top notch cast and crew. Howard Mesick plays Randle Patrick McMurphy, a hoodlum who feigns mental illness to avoid going back to a prison work farm.

Felicia Tuttle has the role Nurse Ratched, a stern disciplinarian who vows to curb McMurphy’s provocations and has all showing contempt, disdain or dislike toward her.

McMurphy’s fellow inmates, the Chronics, Walker and Vegetable, have a variety of psychiatric issues, some quite severe. The other patients are: John Perkinson as Dale Harding, Talley Wilford as Billy Bibbitt, Nic Carter as Charles Atkins Cheswick III, Tom Dorman as Frank Scanlon, Wade Garrett as Anthony Martini, Bruce Jones as Ruckly, and Patrick Fee as Chief Bromden, whose role in the book and play is vastly different as compared the film.

Hospital staff members are: Justin K. Butler as Aide Williams, Stefan Tisdale as Aide Warren, Nina Sharp as Nurse Flinn, Richard Smith as Dr. Spivey, and Ray Randall as Aide Turkel. Liz Clarke and Emily Chiras play hospital “visitors” Candy and Sandy.

The story’s theme deals with power often shifting from one person to another and back again. It even shows the growth of a man as he gets ‘bigger’ as the story progresses. There are so many things happening on stage, apart from the main action, that you will want to see the show more than once to see and enjoy everything that Whitehill, the cast and production crew has put into it. Many of the minor character are on stage throughout the majority of the show and each have put extensive work in developing characteristics for their rolls. The language used and situations that occur during the play is for a mature audience and not for oung children.

A few months ago in my review for Church Hill Theatre’s production of Fiddler of the Roof I called it ‘community theater at its finest’. After seeing everything that has been put into this show and the others I have seen there, I really should have said that Church Hill Theatre is Community Theater at its finest.

McMurphy (Howard Mesick) contemplate his next action.  Photo by SG Atkinson

McMurphy (Howard Mesick) contemplate his next action. Photo by SG Atkinson

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
By Dale Wasserman

Sep 9th – Sep 25th 2016
Fri & Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Adults $20, Members $15, Students $10


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