MRH High Production of 'Cuckoo's Nest' Captures Spirit of '60s
The Cappies review says the battle between the two great main characters—McMurphy and Ratched—propelled the show.
By Mary Baker, Marquette High School
The theme of the 1960s was rebelling against the man—taking a stand, realizing one’s inner worth, and not letting anyone get you down.
In Maplewood Richmond Heights’ production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the spirit of the 1960s permeates an Oregonian mental hospital, thanks to the indomitable spirit of Randle McMurphy.
Adapted from the classic novel by Ken Kesey, Dan Wasserman’s play follows Randle McMurphy, a convicted felon who fakes a mental illness so he can serve his time in a mental hospital rather than prison.
While confined, he meets the coolly evil Nurse Ratched, a woman determined to break his rabble-rousing spirit. The ward is turned upside down by McMurphy’s passionate personality.
Miguel Hernandez (Randle P. McMurphy) brought a hopeful light to the stage. His energy and conviction motivated the rest of the cast and the best performances from the supporting characters came from when he was onstage. Hernandez deftly handled a wide range of emotions all while transforming his character a sympathetic hero with a defiant streak.
As the maleficent Nurse Ratched, Anna Wermuth brought a subdued evil that radiated from her stage presence. Her chilly demeanor was the perfect yin to Hernandez’s fiery yang, and the battle between the two great powers propelled the show.
The supporting cast of patients and staff provided the extra push to take Maplewood-Richmond Heights’ from above-average to extraordinary.
All the patients respectfully portrayed mentally ill patients without making them caricatures. Even actors with limited lines developed layered, distinct characters, contributing to the realness (and ultimate devastation) of the story.
A standout performance was John O’Keefe as Martini. O’Keefe’s lovable character transmitted an incredible amount of information through simple motions. Zach Arias (Billy Bibbit) delivered a heartbreaking performance as an innocent boy exposed to the many facets of life. Arias’ character’s stutter aided his characterization tremendously.
Though his time on stage was limited, Chrystopher Kluttz’s spot-on comedic timing and impressive whistling skills lightened the mood of the dark play considerably.
James Owens’ ingenious set design allowed the actors full motion over the whole stage with access to multiple doors (some swinging, mimicking a real hospital) and an impressively executed pharmacy window.
Paul Meuser and John O’Keefe’s sound work miked the floor, freeing the actors from having to deal with wireless microphones, however at times the floor mics picked up the noises of chairs scraping more than the actors’ dialogue. The lights (Megan Hanak) and sound worked together especially well when highlighting the integral medical treatments in the show.
Maplewood-Richmond Heights’ production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" quietly raises important issues that still today must be included in our national discussion, while also remaining true to the classic source material and doing it all with near-professional skills and intelligent, blistering fury.
This review was submitted by The Cappies, a program that trains high school theater and journalism students as critics. The students then attend shows at other schools, write reviews and publish those reviews in local news outlets. At the end of the year, student critics vote for awards that are presented at a formal Cappies Gala.