Mountain Community Theatre’s ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ to Open at Ben Lomond’s Park Hall – Finally!

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In March 2020, after three months of rehearsals, the cast of Flight over a cuckoo’s nest was set to launch the Mountain Community Theater production of playwright Dale Wasserman’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s classic 1962 novel. And then the world shut down.

“We left our scenography in place for a year, because we kept thinking that the virus would disappear and that we could put on our play,” explains the director of the play, Miguel Reyna, a mainstay of the MCT. “But life had other plans.”

Now, two years later, this team of dedicated actors is ready to start all over again – and the long delay has had the unexpected side effect of bringing them closer together. “The thing is, this cast has really bonded over the past two years, and for a cast of 16 to stay together for so long is incredible. It’s unfinished business, and we’re committed to finish what we started,” says Reyna.

As the Oscar-winning film unfolds from the perspective of Jack Nicholson’s Randle McMurphy, the novel and play are told through the eyes of inmate Chief Bromden, aka Chief Broom, as he is forced to sweep the halls of the psychiatric facility. The journey is Bromden’s tumultuous road to sanity.

“Bromden, played by Santa Cruz actor Avondina Willis, is the central character, and the story unfolds through his narrative. But I find the story moves more through the actions of the ‘highs’, the secondary characters who populate the asylum. They are the people the audience connects with the most,” says Reyna. “My biggest hesitation about performing the play is that I wanted to be sensitive to people struggling with mental health issues “I’ve worked in the mental health field for years. My direction to my actors is that they’re human first. Whatever quirkiness or idiosyncrasy they stage for their role, it must go through the appearance of humanity.

In a world where everyone is or knows someone who struggles with mental health issues, cuckoo’s nest is a timely look at how society views those locked down to fend for themselves. “Author Ken Kesey is one of my counterculture heroes,” says Reyna. “And I’ve read Dale Wasserman’s play a thousand times over the past two years. This production therefore went from a regular production to a passion project.

Played by Nicholson in the film adaptation, McMurphy’s character is not a likeable person. He was convicted by a judge of rape and shrewdly chose an insanity plea to escape jail time. Frankly, he’s a jerk and a creep. “Kip Allert plays Randle,” Reyna explains. “My directive for him was not to watch the movie. I told him to find his own McMurphy. He does an amazing job and I think people will support him, even though he’s more of an anti-hero.

Although Nurse Ratched, played by actress Jennifer Galvin, has been heralded as one of the great movie villains of all time, Reyna begs to hold off. “McMurphy and Ratched are neither heroes nor villains. Nurse Ratched looks like a villain, but is she really? Wasn’t she just doing her job to the best of her abilities? It’s not to me to decide,” he said.

The play contains extreme moments, from suicide to murder, and contestants should be prepared for a few awkward situations alongside the broad humor. “cuckoo’s nest has vulgar and outdated language,” says Reyna. “But I think the audience will understand that it’s true to the characters in the play. The theater audience is enthusiastic, or at least I think they are.

The Mountain Community Theater performs in Ben Lomond’s historic Park Hall, now approaching its 100th anniversary. The beautiful interior and spacious stage of Park Hall is the perfect home for a cuckoo’s nest. “The theater now in Santa Cruz is on life support,” says Reyna. “People need to support the arts. Entertainment isn’t just about TV and movies; Live theater is incredibly important and can be life changing.

“Flight over the Cuckoo’s Nest” from March 18 to April 10 at Park Hall in Ben Lomond, 9400 Mill Street. Tickets are $17 for students/seniors and $20 for the general public. Tickets can be found at mctshows.org.

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