One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Opens Tonight

A Woodbury Sketch Club Players Production

Nurse Ratched and the Gang. (I'm far left)

I’m in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at the Woodbury Sketch Club. I play Martini.  If you saw the movie, the character was portrayed by Danny DeVito.  This is the third time I’ve been in this show but the first time playing Martini.  I was Scanlon in both the Ritz Theatre Co’s production and the one we did at the Arts Bank Theater in Philadelphia.

Before I get into the rest of the post, let me first get the advertisement out of the way.  The show is located at the Sketch Club Players in Woodbury.  Click here to see their website and to get directions cause I know you are going to wanna see this show. The Show dates are Friday 1/22 & 1/29, Thursday 1/28, and Saturday 1/23 & 1/30 at 8 pm.  Matinee’s are Sunday 1/24 & 1/31 at 2 pm.

Martini in Cuckoo's Nest

Martini in Cuckoo's Nest

Now I know that everyone who has ever been in a play thinks that their current production is the best play they’ve ever done. And I understand that as being part of the show, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees.  Those damn rose color glasses keep getting in the way.  So I am going to try to be as impartial as I can be about this production.

I think it’s pretty damn good. Yes, we’ve encountered problems with the set and lights and sound and memorizing lines, but we’ve met those problems head on and they’ve either been addressed or we’ve adjusted around them.  The cast is top notch and we’ve really come together as a team, which is something that does not always happen in community theater. Trust me, if you come to this production, you are gonna laugh and you are gonna cry…

I am not going to critique the other actors or the director, Suzanne Baldino, (who I think is fabulous) except for one person, Erin Blackwell.  Erin is my co-worker and the owner of Laughs and Rants from my Inner Child. Erin and her husband, John, have both acted in local theater for years and years and yet I’ve never been in a show with either of them.  When I heard that Sketch Club was doing Cuckoo’s Nest, I told Erin that if she auditioned for the show, I would too because I wanted to be in a show with her.  Of course, she didn’t audition so I didn’t either.

The next thing I know, she’s telling me that Suzanne has asked her to be Nurse Ratched, which is a jewel of a role for any woman to portray and I told Erin to go for it.  Of course, all the “good” male roles were already cast but they did need someone to play one of the aides.  I consented simply because I wanted to work with Erin. But after a few rehearsals, I learned that the Martini role was still open and I jumped at the chance to play it.

Since we sit next to each other at work, Erin and I often talk about the show. The author, Ken Kensey, obviously hated women, mothers, fathers, the family unit, blacks, and authority in general. In fact, the only thing he seemed to like were obnoxious white males who think that women are objects and their shit don’t stink. It’s the kind of guy I would avoid at all costs.

So if you’ve read the book or seen the play or movie, you know that Nurse Ratched is a cold-hearted bitch who uses her power of authority to not only control her patients but to demean and demoralize them.  Even when she seems to be helpfully sweet, that is a subtle sinisterness (is that a word?) about her.

Erin, however, doesn’t like the way the character has been portrayed and has decided (and I think along with the director as well) to add a bit more compassion to the role.  We discussed and even argued the point but after all, I am neither the director nor the person who is playing Nurse Ratched.  But secretly I was a little concerned.

Since we work together, I have also been helping Erin with her lines during lunchtime. (Martini is on the stage a lot but thankfully has few lines.) Anyway, as we worked on her lines, I also did my best to “coach” her in the feelings and emotions that Nurse Ratched and the other characters around her were encountering.  Please don’t misunderstand, Erin developed the character herself. My contribution was akin to adding a pinch of salt to a recipe.

As we worked on the lines and rehearsed at the theater, I had the great pleasure of watching Erin’s Nurse Ratched blossom into quite a unique portrayal. She has created a warmer, more compassionate Nurse Ratched, yet manages to maintain some of the cold, calculating emotions tht are Ratched’s hallmark. What she’s done is brought a more human face to the character.  I was afraid that she was going to produce a “new” Nurse Ratched, one that would be too far removed from the original character. But she hasn’t. Instead, she’s enhanced Nurse Ratched. In a way, she’s taken away the caricature that Nurse Ratched often becomes in most productions of Cuckoo’s Nest and replaced it with something better, something more real and believable. I believe, it’s even scarier than the original.

Nurse Ratched and the lobotomized McMurphy

The whole cast is great and it’s actually one of the funniest productions I’ve seen of Cuckoo’s Nest.  This is why I do community theater because when it all comes together, it’s such a wonderful thing. I hope you come see it.

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