By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The broad comedy confuses and overwhelms the unsettling themes of Cuckoo's Nest, a dark indictment of the American mental health system and a clever study of a battle of wills among Jungian archetypes. In the three-ring circus atmosphere devised at CTD, however, two important and deadly serious characters get lost—the giant, catatonic Chief Bromden (Jim Johnson), who narrates between scenes, and the icy-evil Nurse Ratched (Sue Loncar).
Loncar tries to underplay the imperious nurse, which isn't a bad thing given the broad statements this actress, who's also the boss at CTD, usually delivers onstage. But her Nurse Ratched seems more tired than terrifying, like a slumber party-weary mom who forgot to renew her Xanax prescription. On opening night, Loncar struggled with dialogue too, which further undermined Ratched's imperturbability (she kept calling her nemesis "Mr. Murphy"). A tall woman of many interesting angles, Loncar has the physical attributes to be an imposing nurse. But instead of looking like a scary bird of prey in all that head-to-toe white, she bears a startling and inappropriately funny resemblance to Nurse Diesel in Mel Brooks' Hitchcock parody High Anxiety.
The likability of actor Mark Nutter works for and against his portrayal of McMurphy. He's got the smiling con artist part of him nailed, but Nutter never gets near the menace of a character serving time for statutory rape of a 15-year-old. McMurphy's a bullshit artist supreme, but without any hint of malice, the sudden burst of violence between him and the nurse at the end of the first act is out of character. We should sense the fuse burning down as Ratched goads him and the suicidal Bibbit during the therapy group. That doesn't happen in the CTD production of Cuckoo's Nest, which gets gummed up in too much kooky comedy.
The Nibroc Trilogy
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest