B.B. High School students go crazy for 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'
Randle Patrick McMurphy interrupts a card game played by the Acutes, patients who officials believe can still be cured, to introduce himself to Billy Bibbit. From left: Jeremy Engle, a senior, Cole Bauer, a junior, Noah Broch, a senior, Anthony Maclean, a senior, Chris Artabane, a senior, Will Hartman, a freshman, and Zack Zeller, a senior.
CLAIRE K. RACINE|WESTMORE NEWS
Charles Cheswick, played by senior Noah Broch, peers at the file held by Dr. Spivey, sophomore Rebecca Reguerria, to see why Randle Patrick McMurphy, senior Jeremy Engle, is at the mental hospital during the group therapy session led by Nurse Ratched, freshman Danielle Goz.
Blind Brook High School theater students have gone insane. At least they have on stage for their annual fall play "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
"It's been weird, but it's been really fun pretending to be insane," said junior Cole Bauer.
Based on the Ken Kesey book by the same name, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is set in the Oregon State Mental Institution.
Basically it is about a nurse and her crazy patients, described senior Lindsey Smith, "but there's so many subplots about human relationships."
Because of that, director and producer Christina Colangelo said that everyday people can connect to the show and the characters in it.
Colangelo, a Blind Brook High School English and drama teacher, is very interested in psychology and felt the community could also benefit from confronting a show that deals with tough underlying topics.
"I think there's such stigma that goes along with mental illness," Colangelo said.
Furthermore, while most people would pick jail over a mental institute, the main character, Randle Patrick McMurphy, does the exact opposite.
"The people he meets are people who just can't cope with what their reality is," Colangelo said. "At every point in their life, I think people can identify with that."
The play is narrated by presumed deaf and dumb Native American inmate Chief Bromden, played by senior Seth Hartman.
"At first I had a lot of trouble being completely mute on stage," Hartman said. "It's definitely a new step for me in theater to have no dialogue, only monologues."
As rehearsals progressed, Hartman became more comfortable with the role and began to enjoy the way the Chief can react nonverbally and riff off the other actors on stage.
"What I've grown to like about it, there are tiny reactions he has," Hartman said.
Bauer plays another of the inmates, Billy Bibbit, one of the Acutes, patients who officials believe can still be cured.
"Billy is really sad. He's suicidal. It was definitely a challenge given I'm a very happy person," Bauer said.
One similarity the actor does share with his character is his stutter. When he was younger, Bauer struggled with a stutter and figuring out the fine line to bring it back for his character was challenging. "His is more severe than mine was," he added. Last year, the Blind Brook theater students put on "The Laramie Project," a play inspired by a town's reaction to a gay college student who was beaten, robbed and left to die in 1998. While "One Flew Over" can also be described as a dark play with controversial undertones, it was has a lighter side, Bauer said. "There's humor to be had."
"It's strangely funny at the same time as being a dark subject matter," Colangelo agreed.
The play is not recommended for children under the age of 12, even after Colangelo toned down the language, something that directors are often hesitant to do. Luckily, in the beginning of the script, there is a note from the author explaining that because of the profanity and strong language, educational institutions "may feel at liberty to modify or delete language which may give offense in your community without, however, altering the basic text," something Colangelo does not recall ever seeing before but greatly appreciated.
Even with the edits, she was amazed that the storyline was strong enough not to be affected. "It really does stand on its own even without the language," she said.
As it stands now, nothing said on stage is anything that could not be aired on television, Colangelo added.
Almost the entire cast is double-cast, with the exception of Billy Bibbit, Aide Warren, Chief Bromden and Ruckly, allowing for more students to be involved. Different actors may choose divergent methods for developing their characters. For example, both Nurse Ratcheds are manipulative, but "they've done a great job of putting their own take on it," Colangelo said.
Smith decided not to mimic Ratched as portrayed in the film version, but rather, to base hers on someone from her own life.
"She was the head of a choir school I was involved with," Smith said. The woman, who held a position of authority over Smith, was dictatorial and cunning but outwardly sweet, exactly how Smith wanted her character to act. Drawing from real life helped Smith out, especially because at heart she is not an avid rule follower and instead empathizes with McMurphy's rule breaking rather than Ratched's adherence to bureaucracy.
Even if people have seen the play or movie before, sophomore Adam Newmark, who plays patient Dale Harding, still encourages everyone to come see Blind Brook's interpretation of it.
After all, as he said, "It's a look into psychiatric wards and it's a good story, too."
All tickets cost $10 and, if available, may be purchased at the door. Performances will be held on Friday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p. m. in the BBHS Trautwein auditorium. As stated above, due to the mature content of the show, it is not recommended for students under 12.