By Jesus Figueroa
East Los Angeles College’s Department of Speech and Theatre Arts delivered a powerful performance of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to a sold-out opening night audience last Friday at the Black Box Theater.
As the theater lights came up, two playful orderlies bully Chief Bromden, a seemingly catatonic Native American, referred to as the Chief..
Carrying the play are three main characters; Bromden, Nurse Ratched and Randle P. McMurphy. Bromden, played by Adam Gonzalez, has few lines in the play until the final scenes, but is on stage the majority of the time.
His presence, although silent most of the time, affects the story and the rest of the characters. “An insane asylum sounds like a pretty good place for me, so it was fun for me to get into the mindset of the character,” Gonzalez said.
His narrations were captivating throughout the play, delivering lines fittingly.
Nurse Ratched played by Jasmine Paredes is the villain of the story. “I have been doing this (acting) a long time. It’s fun to play the villain,” Paredes says.
Her portrayal of the conniving, strict and wicked Nurse Ratched a contrast to McMurphy. McMurphy, played by Sebastian Fernandez, combines wit and a fierce attitude to project his strength and easy-going nature.
The charm of the character enticed the audience and had them laughing at crude jokes and suggestive humor. The rest of the cast does a great job of not overshadowing the main characters.
Their performances are delivered at a great pace in contrast to the main characters making them stand out more.
The first part of the play is captivating and emphasizes critical aspects of the story without becoming boring.
The second act brings noticeable change and progress to the play. It features an intense fight between the Chief and McMurphy against two orderlies, a party in the hospital, electroshock therapy and a lobotomy.
McMurphy’s persistent antics anger Nurse Ratched, contributing to a playful yet rebellious way he is portrayed. McMurphy’s realization brings the rest of the characters down.
The acting gets slower and run down, showing the frustration of the characters, as McMurphy’s fellow patients look to him for strength, guidance and leadership.
Most noticeably Chief changes throughout the story as he becomes more assertive and at times wild.
The bond between McMurphy and Chief is subtle but get played to where the audience sees a connection. They develop a trust that comes across as strong.
McMurphy’s antics culminate with a unauthorized party in the hospital, as he brings two girls into the ward.
One of the girls, Candy Starr, is talked into sleeping with Billy, a young patient who is still a virgin, by McMurphy.
When the young couple is caught, Nurse Ratchet belittles, degrades and insults Billy about his behavior so much so that he commits suicide off-stage.
The audience goes silent as the news about Billy is announced.
McMurphy loses control and attacks Nurse Ratched. This shows a subtle but important change in McMurphy. That he is caring about the rest of the patients. This altercation results in McMurphy undergoing a frontal lobotomy that makes him catatonic.
McMurphy ends up paying the ultimate price as The Chief kills him so that he won’t live the rest of his days as a vegetable. He then escapes through the hospital window, proving to himself that he is strong enough to cope with the outside world.
Some characters smoke throughout the play, which may bother a few people.
The theater department has three days of performances. Friday Oct. 26, Saturday Oct. 27, and Sunday Oct. 28 with matinee and evening performances. Tickets are $10 for non-ASU members and $7 for ASU members. Tickets are available online at www.elac.edu on the “Upcoming Events” section.