Saturday, March 1st at 8pm plus Thurs, Mar. 6 at 7 pm; Fri and Sat, Mar. 7 and 8 at 8 pm; and, Sun, Mar. 9 at 3 pm
By Sally Deering
Ken Kesey’s book ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST was a great book that became an even better stage play when Dale Wasserman adapted it for the theater. Jack Nicholson starred in the movie version and it still resonates decades later. ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ tells the story of Randle P. McMurphy, a free-spirited hooligan who thinks he outsmarts prison officials by acting a little nuts and getting sent to a mental institution to serve his time instead of prison McMurphy becomes the hero to a ward of misfits and it doesn’t take long before he locks horns with the ward’s nurse-in-charge, Nurse Ratched, a no-nonsense control freak who runs her patients’ lives with an iron fist and a cold, hardened heart.
This terrific stage classic gets a revival this week when the Attic Ensemble presents ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST for six performances, Fri, Feb. 28 through Sun, Mar. 9, at the Barrow Mansion in Jersey City. The play is directed by George Seylaz and features Sly Augustus, Ryan Bender, Luke M. Blanchard, Ron Leir, Richard Bull, Art Delo, Colin Goodwin, Melissa Harlow, John L’Ecuver, Crystal Schenck, Andre Urban, Ray Velasquez, Catriona Rubenis-Stevens and Brendan Wahlers. (Ms.) Hank Morris plays Nurse Ratched and Benjamin Holmes plays McMurphy.
“McMurphy’s personality is completely opposite mine,” Ben Holmes says. “He’s a big and gregarious, confident sort of guy. I’ve always been the quiet one and on the periphery. That sort of informs my playing him. I really have to look at the way I would react to situations he’s in and do the complete opposite. That’s part of the fun playing roles like this. I can be so totally different from who I am.”
Holmes, who resides in Brooklyn and commutes to the theater via the PATH train, has been in several Attic shows including ALL IN THE TIMING and THE PILLOWMAN.
“The people I’ve met at the Attic are great,” Holmes says. “The Attic does a lot of really interesting stuff and you kind of jump at a role like McMurphy. And working with Hank who plays Nurse Ratched is great. She always gives you something to work with and react to and she’s excellent up there.”
Holmes is referring to Hank Morris who was recently seen in the Attic’s production of DETECTIVE STORY. Morris, a Union City resident sees ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ as a story about two people who have very strong agendas that are completely at odds. And even though Nurse Ratched comes off as a pretty tough character, Morris doesn’t see her as the bad guy.
“I don’t see Nurse Ratched as mean or at least I don’t anymore,” Morris says. “She gets weaker to me the more time I spend with this play (although don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely channeling my inner battle-axe!!) Deep down Nurse Ratched is crazier and more frightened than anyone on the ward.”
The production is directed by George Seylaz who decided to stage the play in a surreal setting that represents the foggy world the mental patients face every day.
“George is great as director,” Morris says. “He’s got a firm grasp on what he wants and his ideas are really good.”
Attic Ensemble is now in its 43rd season and this has been a turning point year for the troupe. Unsure of its future, the company presented its first play of the season DETECTIVE STORY thinking it might be the last. (The cost of running a theater group keeps rising and the company relies on ticket sales to pay bills.) When DETECTIVE STORY drew large audiences, Attic’s artistic director Art Delo and the company decided to keep the curtain from coming down for good and put on another play this season.
“We didn’t have anything lined up and we were kind of kicking around ideas,” Seylaz says. “Art has always wanted to do ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ so when it came up in discussion, we said let’s do it.”
A huge turnout of actors attended auditions. Seylaz says: “From start to finish it’s been pure joy. Everybody is so into it and having such a good time. Someone asked me recently, what do you want the audience to take from the play? And I thought of the line McMurphy says: ‘I may have failed but at least I tried.’ To me, this is the play’s message. Whatever your real goal is, if you don’t attempt it you never know. If you try, you might succeed.”
If you go:
Fri and Sat, Feb. 28 and Mar. 1 at 8 pm;
Thurs, Mar. 6 at 7 pm;
Fri and Sat, Mar. 7 and 8 at 8 pm; and,
Sun, Mar. 9 at 3 pm
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
The Attic Ensemble
At the Barrow Mansion
83 Wayne Street
TIX: $20 General Admission