Studio 58 is an educational and artistic institution in its own right among Vancouver theatre lovers. Now in its forty-ninth season, the nationally renowned theatre school has seen their stage transformed into an entirely different sort of institution — one which delivers a tense and emotional brush with madness in David Wasserman’s Tony Award-winning adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
When the rabble-rousing McMurphy (Markian Tarasiuk) schemes his way into a mental institution to avoid serving time in prison, everyone gets more than they bargained for. Immediately butting heads with the tyrannical Nurse Ratched (Erin Cassidy), McMurphy launches a campaign to undermine the disciplinarian’s authority by leading his fellow inmates in a series of eccentric schemes.
While both Tarasiuk and Cassidy handle their roles with intensity and skill, the true strength of this production lies in its compelling ensemble cast who provide every scene with a great deal of heart, humour, and the occasional dose of sobering reality. From the uptight Patients’ Council President, Harding (Mike Gill), to the comically delusional Martini (Arash Ghorbani) to the timid giant, “Chief” (John Cook), every patient has their time to shine.
Director Patrick McDonald has done a fine job orchestrating the sizable cast through the small, yet impressive, set—though the play’s second act feels rougher around the edges than the polished first half. This may intentionally reflect the state of things at the institution, but more likely the second act (especially the party scene) could simply have benefited from some tightening-up.
While laughs are plentiful, the tone of this play is ultimately quite serious and it should be noted that some of the darker scenes may be disturbing for some audience members. Additionally, fans of Ken Kesey’s classic novel or the 1975 screen adaptation (starring Jack Nicholson) may be disappointed to see some of their favourite memorable moments altered or else lost entirely due to the constraints of stage. While entirely justifiable, it’s worth taking these changes into consideration when watching.
Ultimately, Studio 58’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest should have you on the edge of your seat by the end as you wait for the proverbial ‘other shoe’ to drop. When it does inevitably drop, you will laugh, you will cry, and—in what is probably the best thing one can say for any play—you will think differently.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest runs until November 30th at Studio 58 at Langara College. Get your tickets early, as the small theatre is likely to sell out well into its run! For more info & tickets, visit Studio 58’s website.
Photo Credit: David Cooper