Jackson's Dance and Theatre Company
Director –Jackie L. Kemp
Scenic Designers –Jackie L. Kemp and Jackson Foltyn
Lighting Designer—Jackson Foltyn
Sound Designer – Jackie L. Kemp
Costume Designers– Jackie L. Kemp, Jackson Foltyn, Tish Morris
Chief Bromden—Robert San Juan
Aide Warren—Henry Okigbo
Aide Williams—Herman Russell
Nurse Ratched—Susan Dergoul
Nurse Flinn—Kallie Corbin
Dale Harding—Ken O’Reilly
Billy Bibbit—Bryan Brooks
Randle McMurphy—Jackson Foltyn
Dr. Spivey—Tom McWhorter
Candy Starr—Kim Winnubst
Reviewed Performance 8/27/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Based on the 1962 Ken Kesey novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital. The story serves as a study of the institutional processes and the human mind as well as a critique of behaviorism and a celebration of humanistic principles. It was adapted into a play (by Dale Wasserman) in 1963, starring Kirk Douglas in the role of Randle McMurphy, and the late Gene Wilder as Billy Bibbitt (Sadly, I had to go back and amend that statement before publishing this review). Interesting bit of trivia: The 1975 film version (starring Jack Nicholson and co-produced by Michael Douglas) was the second film to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay) following It Happened One Night in 1934, an accomplishment not repeated until 1991 by The Silence of the Lambs. Even the role of Nurse Ratched has worked its way into modern media-appearing as a character in the ABC’s Once Upon Time. Although some elements in the story seem dated, the important thematic elements of false insanity, society’s destruction of natural impulses, and the importance of expressing sexuality still are quite relevant today in literature, film, and other mediums.
Director Jackie L. Kemp brought together a strong ensemble cast who worked well together as a cohesive unit. It is apparent that a lot of talent, characterization and energy went into this production. Mr. Kemp’s vision for this production leads audiences to an evening of humor, tension, and sadness. There were some intense moments, and strong presence of relationships on stage. Pacing seemed to be a little bit slow in the early part of the production, but, as the production gained momentum and intensity, the energy and timing of the story kept steady to the end. I am confident that as the production run gets underway, the energy will remain consistent.
Sets were designed by Jackie Kemp and Jackson Foltyn (these two have a multitude of talents!) There were many surprises that came along with the set and overall design. Upon entering the small, theatre-in-the-round space, audiences saw a suggestion of the mental hospital ward where the majority of the action takes place. A black box theatre is very much a blank canvas and can take the shape and form of anything that is suggested by scenic designers. The space at Jackson’s Dance and Theatre Co. is no different, the sets were very imaginative, but conveyed with such simplicity. Because the space at Jackson’s is small, the audience was able to get up close and personal with the cast, and became an intimate part of the production. Sets consisted of a few platforms and pieces of furniture. It was simple, but, provided exactly what was needed in a production of this nature. The focus was on the characters, their relationships, and the conflict within the story. The set made these elements stand out, and did not take away from the story. In a play that is about the characters, and the relationships on stage, I felt it was the appropriate amount of scenic elements, and suggestions to create their world, and to draw the audience in.
I was most impressed with the wide variety of musical selections that were presented throughout the production. Mr. Kemp did a fantastic job of pulling together a unique and interesting repertoire of music together. As an audiophile, I was greatly satisfied with the eclectic collection of music that seemed to be thematically tied together with “crazy” and “insane” music and lyrics. Often times, I feel that the sound design can be overlooked, but, in reality, it is one of the most difficult and most fun elements of theatrical design. Audiences truly never know how many hours of research and listening goes into to creating a playlist that will only play for a short amount of time. Sound designers often choose music based on one lyric, if they feel that it can convey one emotion that they are looking to get across to an audience. It was impressive to hear such songs as “Creep” by Radiohead, “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haa,” an obscure 1966 novelty song by Napoleon XIV, and of course, “Crazy” by Patsy Cline.
Costumes were designed by Jackie Kemp, Jackson Foltyn, and Tish Morris. Costumes also complimented the scenic design. The costumes were very appropriate to the story, and were an accurate representation of each character’s personality. I was impressed with the simplicity and accuracy of the costume designs. My two favorite costumes, were the ones worn by the delightful Candy Starr (Kim Winnubst) and Sandra (Angela Bustson). I was very impressed by the mod 1960’s go-go dresses and boots. The 1960’s is one of my personal favorites, and seeing such fantastic dresses further was an opportunity to draw me into the time period of the play. The fabrics used were so texturally pleasing- were very indicative of the designs and patterns of the 1960’s swingers.
Jackson Foltyn was incredible in the role of Randle McMurphy. Mr. Foltyn was certainly the epitome of what I would expect to see in the role of McMurphy. Mr. Foltyn had impeccable comic timing, and brought humor to even some of the most intense and dramatic moments on stage. Mr. Foltyn’s honesty and energy on stage was enjoyable to watch as he interacted with each character. Foltyn had some lovely exchanges with Nurse Ratched (played wonderfully by Susan Dergoul) the “tough-as-nails” battle axe nurse who has become a popular metaphor for the corrupting influence of power and authority in bureaucracies such as the mental institution-where the main action of the story takes place.
Another standout performance was Robert San Juan in the role of Chief Bromden, the tall Indian inmate who narrates the tale. The most endearing moment of the performance was seeing San Juan and Foltyn’s characters bond in a quiet late-night scene. Mr. San Juan truly took charge of the stage, and did the role of Chief Bromden justice on stage. He was an accurate depiction of Ken Kesey’s character in the original novel. Overall, his performance really drew me into the world of the play. Mr. San Juan’s performance was consistent from beginning to end, and possessed a strong presence on stage.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is an enjoyable experience at the theatre. If anything, it is one of the classics that audiences certainly need to see. If you are a fan of the novel or the film, and have never seen the stage version, I highly recommend you see this production. It is a gripping theatrical journey that has a short production run. Don’t miss “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” at Jackson’s Dance & Theatre Co. Soon, it will fly out of here.
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
Plays through September 18th.
Jackson’s Dance & Theatre Co., 6205 Coit Rd #170, Plano, TX 75024
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm. Matinee performance: Sunday, September 18 at 2:30 pm
Ticket prices are as follows:
$16.00 Seniors (65+)
For more information, and to purchase tickets, call: 972-964-5225 or visit their website: http://www.jacksonsdanceandtheatreco.net