Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 6, 2018

REVIEW: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Playhouse on Park

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
through November 18, 2018
by Mary Kate Sylvia

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a classic play looking into injustice, the treatment of the mentally ill, and control. The play takes place in the 1960s in a mental asylum and showcases the treatment of those living an institution vs those who run it. Playhouse on Park and director Ezra Barnes remain faithful to the script, and do not shy away from its politically incorrect scenes which include homophobic slurs, racism against Native Americans, jokes about rape, and rampant sexism. The theatergoer must be aware that they will likely be uncomfortable. Warnings aside, the play is valuable through its discomfort and, in some cases, rectifies its jokes and shortcomings with insight into the prejudice that was made light of earlier in the play’s storyline.

Photo by Curt Henderson
Every actor in this production does a superb job individually, becoming their characters and giving them multidimensional personalities; even those who rarely speak. What is so nice about this particular cast is the chemistry among the entire ensemble. Every actor can play off their castmates realistically and enthrallingly so that the audience is left totally immersed in each scene. In a play as heavy as this, a cast that does not vibe well can effectively leave the production dragging itself to its miserable end. The Playhouse ensemble ensure that all the right beats are hit and dialogue snaps so that the audience stays immersed right up to the painful end.

Overall, Playhouse on Park’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is incredibly well done. The set is utterly clinical, and the stage features practical fluorescent lighting which gives off an eerie hum that perforates the audience in times of silence. The inclusion of the audience does not stop at a realistic set, however. A patient named Martini, played by Harrison Greene, suffers from severe hallucinations and uses the audience as his basis for them. Though funny, the hallucinations seem meant to invoke a feeling of helplessness or guilt from the audience. Those seated see the horror depicted onstage, are vicariously included multiple times, and yet can do nothing to stop it. Bluntly and figuratively, the production rips the audience’s heart out.

One final note; the lobby of Playhouse on Park is filled with pamphlets on different mental illnesses that theatergoers can take to learn more about social stigmas. It is thoughtful gesture and underscores the idea that, while the play may be irreverent, the subject matter has serious, “real world” implications.