June 30, 2009
CUCKOO'S NEST - THRILLING, HYPNOTIC
LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS
Cuckoo’s Nest mirrors society. There really isn’t a reason for walls anymore, because most of the people who used to be behind those walls are now out on the street. The play based on the best selling book takes place in a mental institution around the 1960’s.
The head nurse is Nurse Ratched who is the Nurse from hell. Either you do as she says – or you will face dire punishment that includes frontal lobotomy. A process, where they remove part of your brain. That’s right, she’s a sweetheart. She just wants to quite you down, so that she has complete control over you.
Ratched particularly, zero’s in on R.P. Mc Murphy who has a vibrant personality. Vibrancy is not what Nurse Ratched likes. Mc Murphy tries to organize a basketball team -- she snuffs that. He likes to play cards -- She snuffs that. But, she can’t seem to stop Mc Murphy’s boisterous antics. He even arranges for a party when he thinks all the staff is asleep. Of course, he gets busted by Nurse Ratched (Mc Murphy calls her Nurse Ratshit) – and with good reason. “She’s a Ball Cutter from way back” – sez Mc Murphy.
Ratched decides it’s time to give “shock treatment’ to the ‘vocal’ Mc Murphy. It doesn’t stop him – he still emerges as the leader of the pack. Of course this infuriates Ratched, who is trying to get the Doctor to do a Lobotomy on Mc Murphy. Ratched’s words will tingle your spine as she gives you that snarley smile with the devil behind it.
The stage play is more like an ensemble piece than a ‘Star Vehicle’ (as in the movie that starred Jack Nicholson.) It is this brilliant cast that brings this emotionally draining evening of drama (with a little comedy) to a crushing crescendo. This is one “Swift and Suspenseful Thriller that you won’t want to miss!” “Strong writing, excellent direction and Magnificent Acting keeps you on the edge of your chair. This is NOT a sugar coated story.”
THE IMPECCABLE CAST: Michael Torres, as Chief Bromden. – “Silence is Golden – he Rocks!” Susi Damilano, as Nurse Ratched. – “Amazing Performance!” Luis Parnell as Dale Harding – “Excellent!” Patrick Alparone as Billy Bibbit – “Deeply heart-warming performance.” Hansford Prince as Randle P. Mc Murphy – “A Raging Bull – Talent gushes out!” Other Dynamite performers are Yusef Lambert, Brian Raffi, Gilberto Esqueda, Joe Madero, David Sinaiko, Madeline H.D. Brown, Dwight Huntsman, Catz Forsman and Marissa Keltie. Not a wrong scene – not a wrong movement from anyone. “Pitch Perfect!”
EXTRAS: Another amazing set by Bill English. Steve Schoenbeck (Composer/Sound) amplified the tension. Michael Oesch – Great creative lighting. Valera Coble – Masterful costumes.
MESMERIZING DIRECTION BY: BILL ENGLISH. At The San Francisco Playhouse (near Union Square).
RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-
(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))
More reviews: www.beyondchron.org.
Tags: Susi Damilano, Bill English, SF Playhouse, Theater, Cuckoo's Nest, Mc Murphy, Hansford Prince, Patrick Alparone, Louis Parnell, Union Square, Novel - Ken Kesey, Dale Wasserman.