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Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell

September 15, 2022 Issue
PART 3C (September 12, 2022)

A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.


McMurphy vs. Ratched Is the Main Event in LGB
Productions' One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Sean A. Brosnahan (left) and Shane de León star as McMurphy and Billy (photo by Elizabeth Anderson)

Ali vs. Frazier? Leonard vs. Duran? Holyfield vs, Tyson? Move over! Make room for McMurphy vs. Ratched!

To be perfectly blunt: LGB Productions' current presentation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, directed by Beth Brody and playing at the Levin Jewish Community Center of Durham, is nothing short of a masterpiece!

Dale Wasserman's adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, based on Ken Kesey's 1962 novel of the same name, made its Broadway debut on Nov. 13, 1963. (Side note: Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman's 1975 film adaptation, directed by Miloš Forman and starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, is better known, but by no means "better.")

When the play begins, Randall P. McMurphy is serving a jail sentence that involves "hard labor." His altercations in the prison setting have brought his sanity into question, so he has been transferred to a mental institution, where he becomes the newest member of a "society" of "loonies" who are under the authoritarian thumb of the strong-willed Nurse Ratched. McMurphy thinks this will be a cakewalk; Ratched thinks otherwise. Each is willing to go to great lengths to prove their point.

'Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensèd points
Of mighty opposites. (
Hamlet 5.2.56-62)

So: "What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?"

All I can say is: I could not imagine better casting! Sean A. Brosnahan imbues the character of McMurphy with an inimitable hard edge. One look into his eyes shows that he is always "looking for the angle," always optimistic about how he can make things turn out. A second look will show that he is always prepared to think (and act) "outside the box." While not "admirable," Brosnahan's McMurphy is definitely likable.

Christine Rogers' Nurse Ratched, on the other hand, owns "the box"; and she is determined to keep everything inside the box, very neat and very orderly. Rogers' body language and tone of voice telegraph her determination as she masterfully pushes the buttons of her wards. And the dynamic between her and Dr. Spivey (Carl Mulfinger) reinforces our vision of Ratched as a force of nature.

The supporting cast is brilliant! Scott Renz delivers a wild-eyed, deeply wounded character as "Chief" Bromden, a half-breed member of a defunct American Indian tribe. He only speaks in rambling, surreal soliloquies in which he addresses his "papa." We are soon informed that he is a deaf-mute.

Dustin Britt is a natural in the role of Harding, a repressed homosexual in an age when that was "not cool." Britt handles the dry wit of Harding's lines with aplomb, and he expertly manages Harding's tough-but-urbane veneer, but the character's vulnerability is always evident just below the surface, and it is no surprise (and totally believable) when it overcomes him.

Then there is a quirky trio -- BIlly Bibbit (Shane de León), Cheswick (Ryan Madanick), and Martini (Tanner Lagasca). These three actors are geniuses. Their portrayals of these afflicted characters are truly amazing. Billy stutters; De León makes it believable. Cheswick has quirky physical tics; Madanick is a natural. Martini hallucinates; Lagasca almost makes us believe that he can "see" the audience. Michael Anderson's Scanlon is more subdued, but obviously afflicted; and Alden Rubin's Ruckley is even more subdued and even more afflicted.

David Holt, Aaron Tyler Boles, Miranda Curtis, Shannon K. Helton, Todd Lesley, and Jennifer Daley round out the cast, each fitting in quite well in their characters.

Scenic designer Jeffey A. Nugent has delivered a very detailed and quite believable vision of the day room in which the action takes place. Costume designer Kishara McKnight has ensured that everyone is clothed in character-specific costumes. Equally on-point are David Petrone's lighting and Michael Anderson's sound.

I highly recommend this show. And if my word isn't good enough, consider this: Saturday night's audience applauded at the end of nearly every scene.

Dale Wasserman's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (In Person at 7 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, 17, and 18), based on the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey and directed by Beth Brody and starring Sean A. Brosnahan as Randle P. McMurphy, Christine Rogers as Nurse Ratched, Dustin Britt as Dale Harding, Shane de León as Billy Bibbit, Tanner Lagasca as Martini, Michael Anderson as Scanlon, Ryan Madanick as Cheswick, Miranda Curtis as Nurse Flinn, Shannon O'Shenanigans as Candy Starr, Jennifer Dunn Daly as Sandra, Scott Renz as Chief Bromden, David Holt as Aide Warren, Aaron Tyler Boles as Aide Williams, Todd Lesley as Aide Turkle, Carl Mulfinger as Dr. Spivey, and Alden Rubin as Ruckley (LGB Productions at Jewish for Good at the Levin Jewish Community Center of Durham). THE PRESENTER: THE VENUE:,, and DIRECTIONS: THE PLAY:,,, and THE SCRIPT (excerpts): THE PLAYWRIGHT:,,,, and WARNING: LGB Productions cautions patrons, "This play contains strong language and adult themes. Audience members will be required to be masked for the safety of our patrons and actors." TICKETS: $23, plus taxes and fees. Click here to buy tickets. INFORMATION: Click here and then click Message at top right. PLEASE DONATE TO: Jewish for Good at the Levin JCC.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights' Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review.


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