Conman McMurphy takes on Nurse Ratched in a high stakes power struggle in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” March 16 to 25 at the Downriver Actors Guild in Wyandotte.
The show runs 7:30 p.m. March 16, 17, 23 and 25, and 3 p.m. March 25 at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle in Wyandotte.
The story follows the conflict between a convict, McMurphy, who fakes his way into a mental institution, thinking his incarceration will be easier, and Nurse Ratched, who runs the asylum and eliminates behavior that deviates from her tight routine by using the patients’ weaknesses to control them in a dehumanizing, emasculating manner.
Director Lucinda Chavez of Allen Park said she had a strong turnout at auditions, and is thrilled with the show’s strong cast.
She said the show is about more than imperfect people in a mental institution and a quintessential staff.
“In this show we want to show everybody as flawed,” Chavez said. “The ones on staff, that are supposed to be in control, we are trying to show their vulnerability, too, so the audience can relate to them and see that they are only human, and they do have reasons for acting the way they do.”
Chavez said she knew Carolyn Sohoza, of Dearborn, who usually plays “nice” characters, could dig deeper and become the Nurse Ratched that they wanted.
“The main thing that attracted me to her was her control,” Chavez said. “In this case, less is more. She didn’t overact, but showed this composure with an occasional breaking, and then immediately back to the control, because she is all about the control.”
Chavez said the power struggle between McMurphy and Ratched is immediate and unrelenting.
“She immediately tries to show her authority, and he immediately pushes right back,” she said. “So there is tension from the very beginning, and as we go along, he becomes more ‘broken’ because of her, and she actually becomes more ‘broken’ because of him.”
Chavez said the patients begin to leave their comfort zones and follow McMurphy.
“By the end of the play, everything has changed,” she said. “You feel a range of emotions, from laughing to crying to being horrified.”
Chavez said that even though the story is set in the 1960s, she hopes audiences realize that there are places like this asylum today.
“It still happens today, and I think the whole establishment needs to be looked deeper into, especially with what’s going on with the mental issues we have with the shootings and all that,” she said. “We really need to look into how we handle the mentally ill, and I hope they go away thinking there are really people out there who need help and we are not helping them the way we should.”
Sohoza said she usually plays “ditsy blondes,” so while Nurse Ratched is a departure from the type of roles she usually plays, she has discovered it can be fun to play a villain.
“I would never do this in real life – I would never be so condescending or horrible to people,” Sohoza said. “I’m sarcastic joking and funny, but she’s just sarcastic mean. It is a challenge to portray that to the audience.”
Sohoza said to be believable, she has to make sure the audience hates Nurse Ratched, a control freak, by curtain call.
“She has the opportunity to control everybody in here, and she is going to take advantage of that and run with it,” Sohoza said.
Leo McMaster of Rockwood, as Randall P. McMurphy, said he wouldn’t mind if his teenage students see him in this play because it makes people think.
“It’s got a good meaning in terms of non-conformity, fighting for yourselves against oppressive people or organizations,” he said. “The worst thing is the language, but there are a lot of good things.”
McMaster said in many ways his character is a scoundrel.
“He’s a crass womanizer, foul mouthed, but I think in many ways he’s maybe the most noble character I have ever played,” he said. “He is like the missing confidence that they have never had, or that has been stolen from them over the years. He becomes the hero.”
McMaster said McMurphy underestimates Ratched’s power.
“She’s holding the cards,” he said. “She’s actually got the real power, and he’s overconfident, doesn’t really know the rules, and kind of realizes too late.
“They look up to him like a savior, and instead of saving his own neck, he continues with his hero drive, and it snowballs on him.”
Brian Aue of Taylor, who plays Billy Bibbit, said the role presents a lot of challenges to him as an actor.
“It is a lot of fun to play someone that is way outside my character,” he said. “He is emotionally stunted. He hasn’t really grown up, kind of afraid of women.”
Aue said today Bibbit might be diagnosed as autistic, but back in the late 1950s, early 1960s, he would be considered mentally disturbed.
He said the story shows a group of men who are flawed but with whom one can identify, who can grow through this process.
“Some of the characters find themselves through this process, others are lost,” Aue said. “I think that is a true reflection of some of the mental health facilities, especially back then.”
Pete Ziedas of Dearborn, who plays Chief Bromden, said he plays a complex character who is shattered and catatonic except for when he delivers monologues, in which he is talking to his Native American father initially. Later he talks to McMurphy.
Ziedas said there is both humor and complexity in the play, and the characters are well developed.
“There is some very deep pain here and there is some liberation,” Ziedas said.
Gary Jenkins of Monroe, who plays Harding, a loner and a complex character, said the cast is phenomenal.
“These are all lead actors,” Jenkins said. “This is seriously one of the finest dramatic casts I have ever been involved with – there are no weak links here.”
Rob Eagal of Trenton, who plays Scanlon, said his character is a surly, sociopathic malcontent who by the end of the show develops compassion.
Eagal said that although McMurphy and Nurse Ratched seem different, their motivation is strikingly similar.
“He is anti-establishment and she is establishment, and they will have their way,” Eagal said. “All the characters in the show change, at least a little, because McMurphy’s there.”
He said the Tony Award-winning play is worth seeing.
“There are some funny bits, there’s going to be some laughs, there’s going to be some tears,” Eagal said. “It’s a good show.”
Also in the cast are John Barcarella of Carleton as Dr. Spivey; Amanda Bates of Dearborn Heights as Candy Starr; Detroit residents Christopher Gawel as Aide Williams and James Wolbrink as Aide Warren; John Bruske of Lincoln Park as Martini; Monroe residents Kathleen McBee as Nurse Flinn, William McCloskey as Ruckly, Norb Nowak as Aide Turkle, and Ronald Roberts as Cheswick; and Kathryn Bedikian of Wyandotte as Sandra.
Playing chronics in the ensemble, are Brandon Curren of Allen Park, Brian Welch of Dearborn, Richard Town of Flat Rock and Charles Bollman of Wyandotte.
Tickets are $13, with a $2 discount for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.
FISHER’S ‘LES MISERABLES’ LIVES UP TO IT REPUTATION
“Les Miserables,” the powerhouse musical masterpiece, continues through March 11 at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit.
The Broadway tour of Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg’s Tony Award-winning musical, based on the Victor Hugo novel, continues to thrill audiences.
Set in 19th century France, the powerful story of love, loss, passion and sacrifice runs through the music, which includes “I Dreamed A Dream,” “On My Own,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing.”
“Les Miserables” is powerful and moving, and it epitomizes the magic of musical theater that makes audiences want to see a show time and again.
Tickets starting at $45. To order, call 800-982-2787 or go to ticketmaster.com or broadwayindetroit.com.
RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S ‘CINDERELLA’ COMING TO FISHER
Following the blockbuster run of “Les Miz” is another rags-to-riches musical delight, as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” comes to the Fisher March 13 to 18 for nine performances.
The show runs 7:30 p.m. March 13 to 17, 1 p.m. March 15 and 18, 2 p.m. March 17 and 6:30 p.m. March 18 at the theater, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.
The musical, originally written for television in 1957, and starring Julie Andrews, includes musical favorites, “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible / It’s Possible,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”
Tickets start at $35. To order, call 800-982-2787 or go to ticketmaster.com or broadwayindetroit.com.