One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Kim Taylor

Marin Classic Theatre presents the first Bay Area staging of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest since the recent death of Ken Kesey. Kesey, the hippie generation author who wrote the novel that Dale Wasserman’s play was based on, became a hippie generation legend when he and his friends were depicted in Thomas Wolfe’s novel Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. In the 1970s the play ran successfully for several years in San Francisco.

But the beauty of this drama is that it transcends any time frame because it’s based on the human mythology of a strong individual coming to save a weaker group from some form of oppression. In this drama Randall P. Mc Murphy (Bruce Viera) is admitted to the psych ward of a hospital. Mc Murphy is a tough guy who has been in trouble with the law before, but instead of doing jail time, he manipulates the system to give him what he thinks will be easy time in a psych ward. But he didn’t count on a ward full of men hungry to draw on his strength in hopes of overcoming their subjugation. While part of Mc Murphy is repulsed by their weakness, part of him feels sorry for them and tries to help them particularly a big American Indian they call Chief Bromden (Johnny Gutierrez). But Mc Murphy also didn’t count on the head psyche nurse (Pennell Chapin) being a real ball buster.

There are many parallels between this play and other classic dramas, including the Paul Newman film Cool Hand Luke, but the most classic parallel is the New Testament. Mc Murphy is a modern day Christ figure trying to wake up the patients in this psych ward from their medication-induced stupor. To Mc Murphy’s point of view the only reason these patients, most of them voluntary, subject themselves to institutional control is because they’re afraid of life. Like Christ he is betrayed by one of his disciples and only through the utmost sacrifice on Mc Murphy’s part can there be any hope for resurrection from the psych ward patients.

For tickets or more information call (415) 892-7772 or visit:

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