nest

Doug MacAskill, left, plays Chief Bromden and Roger Campbell is Randle P. McMurphy in Attleboro Community Theatre’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” (submitted photo)

Campbell, of Walpole, plays small-time criminal Randle P. McMurphy in the well known drama based on the Ken Kesey novel. The play is set in a mental hospital, where McMurphy has chosen to serve out a five-month jail term to avoid hard labor on a farm.

There he meets seven long-term inmates, including Macaskill's character, a Native American named Chief Bromden. The deaf and dumb chief's thoughts are revealed to the audience through a series of pre-recorded, emotional soliloquies on a darkened stage in both Acts I and II.

The inmates' daily lives are managed by the strict and heartless Nurse Ratched, played by Anne Faiella of Norton. In the first scene, she shouts "Medication" over the public address system. One at a time, the inmates appear on stage with all their quirky mannerisms and mind-sets to down their daily pills.

Ratched is assisted by two able and formidable orderlies, played with gusto by Robert P. Messier and Kevin Hernandez, both of Attleboro.

Several "group therapy" sessions bring out the personalities and problems of the inmates. The hopeless Dr. Spivey, played with bumbling eccentricity by W. Grant Willis of Providence, is never in charge. Ratched is allowed to bait and belittle the inmates, one by one.

Dale Harding is played with an air of exasperation by Stephen G. Lee of Randolph. He's first to be quizzed "therapeutically" about his feelings of inadequacy in his marriage. Lee portrays well the anguish of a fine mind trapped by an obsessive fear of women. His fellow inmates seem to have more insight into his plight than does the sadistic Ratched.

Cheswick, played expertly by John Campbell of Attleboro, ranges from wise guy to insecure coward in the group settings.

Naïve Billy Bibbitt, played by Bob Lively of Attleboro, is an earnest, stuttering young man who lives in fear of his mother-figure's opinion of him.

Scanlon is a scary bomb maker, played with gusto and odd outbreaks by Brandon Harrington of Attleboro. He carries around a box of what appears to be explosives.

Alex Aponte of Attleboro provides comic relief as simple-minded Martini. Aponte is spot on with his faces, gestures and antics. He hallucinates and thinks he "sees" the audience.

During their leisure time, McMurphy introduces gambling for cigarettes to five of the willing inmates. Who's not willing? The deaf and dumb Chief isolates himself while constantly sweeping the floor and Ruckley, played by Charley Carey of Norton, stands silently throughout the play with his hands against the wall as if they were nailed in place.

Kudos to the larger-than-life party girls who enter the scene through an outside window. It took lots of rehearsals to get it right, according to Denise Roberge. She plays the buxom Sandy, a partner in crime with flashy Candy Starr, portrayed by Emily Lamarre. They provide a comical contrast to slender Nurse Flinn in spotless white, played by Sarah Quintilian of West WarwickI.

Act II takes a dark turn when carefree McMurphy realizes that he will be kept permanently in the mental hospital. He is treated with both shock therapy and frontal lobotomy surgery.

Campbell and Mac-Askill, of Pembroke, rush full-force into the nightmarish final scenes. The shocking outcome takes tremendous acting skill and total commitment to the characters.

After a stunned silence, the audience gave a standing ovation to this cast of 15 actors on opening weekend of ACT's 60th season.

***

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is playing through Oct. 16 at the Bates Masonic Lodge, 71 North Main St., downtown Attleboro. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2. Tickets are $18 general and $15 for seniors and students. They’re available online at attleborocommunitytheatre.com. For reservations call 508-266-8100.

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