Madhouse moments

Machismo figures in big with Dale Wasserman’s excellent stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The tale follows a group of male inmates at a Pacific Northwest asylum who are systematically terrorized into spinelessness by chief Nurse Ratched. But all that changes when hustler R. P. McMurphy is moved to the hospital from his sentence on a prison work farm after convincing the officials that he’s crazy.

Through his unbridled exuberance, McMurphy begins to jolt the men out of their lethargy, their true personalities emerging once more. Of course, Nurse Ratched rightfully perceives McMurphy’s presence as a threat to her dominance over the men, and so the conflict builds.

In Butte College’s current production, all of the men playing patients do fine with their roles. Standouts include Douglas Anderson as stuttering Billy Bibbit (basically Ratched’s “punching bag” during group therapy sessions) and Matt Brown as “deaf and dumb” broom-pushing Chief Bromden, although Brown was sort of a one-note player with his monologues. Also enjoyable was Lew Gardner as “crucified” lobotomy patient Ruckley.

As for the genuine “Christ figure” in this play, Jason Simmons was good as Randle P. McMurphy. Curiously, his mannerisms and even his voice to an extent suggested Kirk Douglas, who originally played the role on Broadway. Fortunately, the impression didn’t overwhelm his performance. As Nurse Ratched, Jodi Rives Schall was generally effective, but she wasn’t quite up to the role’s demands. The character is utterly in charge of that institution. Schall just didn’t command our attention the way someone with that kind of power should. Still, she mostly got the job done.

Overall, Butte College Department of Performing Arts has presented an appealing production with much to offer. The set is beautiful. The septic greens, the kindergarten furnishings, the sliding glass window to the nurses’ station, the barred windows to the outside world—all look great. Praise for set designer Sheen Leduc. Lights and sound were splendidly orchestrated by Alex Belden, and the accurate costumes assembled by Nelly Gonzales.

This is the final weekend for the production. If you can spare a couple of hours, swing by the Butte Chico Center and spend the time with some likeable loonies.