One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Atlantic Center For the Arts
From a Book by Ken Kesey
Adapted by Dale Wasserman
Directed by Spenser E Meehl
Starring Jennifer Kinsey, Spenser E Meehl, and Minas Fakrajian
Positively Florida Theater
New Smyrna Beach, FL
Crime doesn’t pay, but the hours are pretty nice. Petty thief R J. McMurphy (Meehl) tries to get off the prison farm by faking insanity. The doctors are pretty sure that’s what he’s doing, but under the tender care of Head Nurse Ratched (Kinsey) this sentence turns into a battle of the will. Her ward was calm enough until Murphy showed up; now he’s fleecing the inmates of their candy bars and petty change, flashing nudie cards in the poker game, and he whips the basketball team in to shape and beats the interns with the help of oversized Chief (Fakrajian). The other inmates range from offended Hardin (Pierre “Pete” Rougeux) to shy Billy Bibbit (Forrest Stringfellow) to cranky Charles Cheswick (Robert Siegel). When Murphy brings in hookers and booze, his gig is up. Nurse Ratched enforces displine with a lobotomy, and that’s a sentence there’s no escaping from.
Always controversial, this play points up the unfairness of absolute power, yet reflects its necessity. Meehl’s Murphy looks confident, conniving and overplays his hand. He also fails to note that once in the mental ward, his criminal sentence is meaningless and he’s now a permanent residence. Kinsey’s Ratched is calm and icy cold bloodless, yet not a woman who projects well. All of the inmates are cleanly defined personalities, and had I not been sitting on a folding chair observing, I would believe they all need their meds. This is a strong performance by a solid crew, and a good signpost for the work done at the Atlantic Center for Arts. Leave early to see it, this place is a bit hard to find if you don’t know the area.