Playhouse's 'Cuckoo' casts a spell
Myra Yellin Outwater
Special to The Morning Call
of the many reasons to see Pennsylvania Playhouse's well-cast and
well-staged production of ''One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'' is Mike
Febbo's superb performance as the truculent, cocky, supremely
self-confident and street-wise Randle McMurphy. Febbo creates a
fascinating character study of this con man turned mental ward resident,
who is used to playing the odds and winning, until he comes up against the
intractable and authoritarian tyranny of Nurse Ratched, played with
deliberate and exaggerated understatement by Jonni Pionegro.
From the moment Febbo swaggers onstage and plants himself firmly in the
center of an inane card game, he enlivens the stage with his braying
laughter, and his aggressive and menacing stance. Physically and mentally
Febbo is up to the game afoot, his battle against the indomitable will of
Nurse Ratched. And it is this battle between a rebellious individual and
an unbendable system that becomes the glue that holds together this
classic drama of individuals being crushed by that system.
Director Ralph Montesano has cast actors who not only click as a
well-nuanced ensemble, but who are able to consistently maintain their own
pathologies and exaggerate their eccentricities. In addition, Montesano
has been extremely inventive in using the Playhouse's long and narrow
Ralph Schwalm plays the seemingly lucid and well-spoken Dale Harding.
Jerry Brucker plays the militaristic Frank Scanlon. Mickey Brown brings a
light humor as the delusional Anthony Martini, and Dwight Young brings
sensitivity to the role of the ineffectual Billy Bibbit. Gary Boyer brings
his own style and complexity to the role of the nebbish Charles Cheswick
and Larry Harris is poignant as the inadequate Dr. Spivey, another one of
Nurse Ratched's victims.
Comic relief comes in the form of cameos by Joe Pionegro as the automaton
Ruckley, just as happy posing as a crucified Christ or a basketball hoop
in a hilarious game of basketball, and Nick Englesson as the tipsy guard
Gary Martin brings pathos and humor to the role of the totem-like Chief
Bromden. And Bradley Youst's eerie lighting gives Martin an eerily mystic
''Cuckoo's Nest'' is one of those classics everyone thinks they know. But
this production is so well done and absorbing that it not only entertains
but emotionally involves the audience in its onstage psycho drama.
''One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,'' 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m.
Sundays through June 15, Pennsylvania Playhouse, Illick's Mill Road,
Bethlehem. Tickets: $20; $17 seniors, students.