BWW Review: ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST at The Belfry Theatre

BWW Review: ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST at The Belfry Theatre

In the world of healthcare, the topic of insanity is often pushed into a corner and left to fester on its own. This sometimes sinister area of medicine can show both how much humanity we have and how little is left in us when confronted with the frailty of others. These deep and dark subjects permeate The Belfry Theatre's production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST.


ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST has seen its success in novel form and film, but the stage production brings together the best of both, in my opinion. It sticks close to the narrator, Chief Bromden, played by Chris Otterman. Chief is of the mind that everyone within the confines of the ward at his psychiatric facility is controlled by a foreboding machine called The Combine. Of course, this would initially lead you to believe he's on the ward for a reason, but as the plot unfolds, you begin to question your own grasp on who among them is truly insane.

Chris Otterman brought the Chief to life as the somewhat delusional but also scared little man who is so hesitant to emerge from his self-created shell. His large size belies the fear that paralyzes his tongue and makes others believe he is deaf and mute. However, Chief has just been waiting for someone "to make me big again."

Chief is surrounded by other equally paralyzed men, all clearly well-researched by the actors who portray them. Ruckley (Jeff Coss) even made an impression as a nearly fully catatonic patient on the ward. Charles Cheswick (Thom Johnson), Dale Harding (Rob Lawson), Anthony Martini (Luke McLaughlin), Billy Bibbit (Jacob Vernier), and Frank Scanlon (Adam B. Workman) make up the motley crew who live under the thumb of the notorious Nurse Ratched. Each of these men are coping with their own demons, and the way in which they cope creates many moments of hilarity and tension.

Nurse Ratched, portrayed by Courtney Gray, is a sickly sweet woman who initially appears devoted to her patients' recovery. However, as the play continues, her smiling demeanor is the front for a devious and plotting woman. It strikes you how well she is played by Ms. Gray when the curtain call comes and you almost don't want to applaud because you feel so betrayed by the character she plays.

It takes a raucous and rather lewd man named Randall Patrick McMurphy (Jason Vernier) to help not only Chief become "big again" but help all of the men on the ward recognize and resist the tyranny of Nurse Ratched. His larger-than-life personality takes over the ward and awakens the lives (and libidos) of everyone around him.


Set Designer, Jen Otterman, and Costume Designer, Norma Floyd, have really outdone themselves by adapting the theatre's space into a functioning mental hospital. The overall transformation includes a fully-functioning barred window for potential escapes, as well as a boxed, authentic nurse's station. Otterman has brought the sterile feel of a mental hospital into the theatre with the whiteness of the walls and enhances this concept with printed signs leading to various areas of the facility. Otterman's ambiance is extremely unsettling simply due to its accuracy. She has accurately created a sense of isolation, claustrophobia, and numbness with her unique use of spatial analysis.

Using the nurse's station as it's intended, Nurse Ratched's voice and others echo eerily over the intercom, compliments of the Sound Designer Geoff Lynch. Combining the recorded voiceovers of Chief Bromden against a disturbing glow, each of the Chief's memories becomes more to the audience than just a simple flashback.

Otterman puts the finishing touches on the hospital's décor and ambiance with tight, little orderly uniforms. Stiff and bright, the harshness of the costumes creates a medicinal-like couture for the nurses of the hospital. Floyd has created a stark contrast between the pristine order of the aides and the costuming arranged for the patients. Comfy pajamas and bathrobes do more to assist with the functionality of the peculiar behavior of patients from the caretakers.

The chaos, charisma, and kindness that ensue turn this once lifeless ward into the scene of some of the best and worst examples of what human nature is capable of. Do not miss your chance to witness it at The Belfry Theatre, running through February 18th.

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