By Dale Wasserman
From a novel by Ken Nesey
Directed by Amy Whittenberger
Produced by Consortium Project
At The Viaduct Theater
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Newly formed theatre company Consortium Project makes an amateur arrival with their performance of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Miss cast, sloppy costumes and poorly directed, the classic play written by Dale Wasserman is butchered and left me unexpectedly bored. The pace is too fast, preventing any connection to be made with the audience. The recitation of lines sounds like a reading, and there is no real human reaction time in their delivery. Inside the asylum the patients’ characters are never developed and the individual empathy that Wasserman is able to draw from his audience is never there; causing the rest of the play to flat.
I am unfamiliar with the stage script, but the dialogue in this performance is drastically different that that in the Academy Award winning movie. Nurse Ratched is still controlling everyone from her subordinates on down to the individual patients inside the mental institution. Everything is orderly and manipulated just the way Nurse Ratched wants it until Mr. McMurphy comes in and shakes things up a bit. Pretending to be clinically insane in order to avoid prison he is sentenced to the mental institution, and he has no intention of being controlled. Unaware that Nurse Ratched holds his freedom in her hands McMurphy is determined to get to nurse Ratched, and inspire the rest of the patients to wake up and take control of their own life.
In the opening scene Nurse Ratched (Tracy Wray) entered with a commanding presence and stern poised voice, but that did not hold up through out her performance. Mr. McMurphy (Evan Absher) never had a chance; the costume designer took the “cool” right out of McMurphy by replacing the tight black skull-cap that sits on top of his head with an oversized green hat that is better suited on the little boy in the Christmas story.
The flow of the play is interrupted at several points with a dream-like gimmick where the Chief (S.A. Soletero) talks to his ancestral father about the asylum and the politics in life. Most of these scenes are too busy and rushed for the message to have any impact, except for the one where Nurse Ratched is depicted as a puppeteer. Soletero has a wonderful deep powerful sounding voice but it is over used, and the Chief’s comments loosed the impact that they are supposed to have due to his carefully chosen times to speak. In this production the chief has a long monologue about the mistreatment of his people by the United States Government that is unnecessary, and treats the audience as intellectual morons pounding into us something that we figured out to be a message in the play pretty quickly in the opening scenes.
This production is sloppy; from the clumsy blocking to the doctor’s untied tie, but moments of actor’s passion made me feel upbeat for this theater company’s showcase. Jon Penick as Scanlon was an enjoyable character. His dry humor was greatly enhanced by the dumb-witted expressionless face he maintained through the show. The daunting task of starting a new theatre company is one to be commended and I enjoyed watching the passion and efforts put forth by everyone involved. Their company is working for respectable causes and institutions that help the Greater Chicagoland area, and they attracted an enthusiastic fun crowd to hang out with on opening night. The Viaduct Theater consistently provides a cool set-up and entertaining atmosphere, but unfortunately this production is not ready for Chicago’s theatre scene. Keep your eye on Consortium Project… They’ll come back strong.
By: Timothy McGuire
At Viaduct Theater 3111 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618, Tickets are $12, ($10 Students & Industry w/ ID) call (773) 296-6024, Playing Feb. 4th – Feb. 21st, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7pm and Sunday matinees @ 3pm.