Exceptional ensemble
lends depth to loony bin

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," presented by Diamond Head Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 16. Tickets are $40-10. Call 733-0274.

Review by John Berger

Tertiary characters rarely get much notice onstage or in reviews, but several such easily overlooked types in Diamond Head Theatre's production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" contribute to its success.

Watch, for instance, Gene DeFrancis (Philip Enos), who speaks not a word but is always perfectly in character as a mute mental patient with a thing for windows and floors. There's Paul Jeffrey Dee (Ruckly), who spends most of the show standing motionless and drooling, and whose one recurring line of dialogue can't be printed in a family newspaper. Eric P. Griffith (Scanlon) has only slightly more to do as the wild-haired blond psycho who thinks he's building a bomb in a cigar box.

While the work of Dee and DeFrancis is easy to overlook, there's no way to miss Brent Yoshikami in the much larger role of insecure Billy Bibbitt. Yoshikami, a Po'okela winner for his portrayal of the preternaturally insensitive young doctor in Manoa Valley Theatre's "Wit," delivers a performance of comparable depth and greater detail.

Shining down, as it were, on director Bill Ogilvie's exceptional ensemble are the stars of the show, Allen Cole and Bridget Kelly. With Cole as con man Randle P. McMurphy and Kelly as the formidable Nurse Ratched, this version of Ken Kesey's epic battle of the wills, written for the stage by Dale Wasserman, captures the mind and holds the imagination throughout.

Cole borrows nothing from Jack Nicholson's characterization of McMurphy in the 1975 film version, and quickly establishes his own claim to the role. McMurphy has worked a con to get transferred from a prison work farm to the mental hospital, with the expectation that he'll be able to run the ward until he's released -- all in all, it seems, easier time than on the work farm.

Almost anyone likely to see "Cuckoo's Nest" knows the outcome; suffice it to say that Cole effectively portrays the subtle changes that occur as McMurphy reassesses his situation.

Kelly is ultimately terrifying as Ratched. Despite the fact that she is much smaller physically than Cole, there is no question as the story plays out that Ratched is an extremely formidable opponent.

Dan Hale (Chief Bromden), last seen in Po'okela-winning performance as Lenny in MVT's "Of Mice and Men," has in essence a double role here. He must first play a presumed catatonic deaf-mute and then portray an insecure but otherwise fully functional mental patient. Hale is superb in both modes.

Randl Ask (Dale Harding) makes a welcome debut on the Honolulu theater scene with his well-finessed work as the fussy, foppish leader of the inmates group.

Set designer Patrick Kelly (no relation to Bridget) gives the entire stage just enough of a slant from back to front to provide an optimal view of the action without quite spoiling the illusion that the characters are experiencing the floor as flat. In design and execution, Kelly's creation is as impressive as his design for last year's staging of "Titanic."

And rarely do local productions use sound and lighting to enhance a performance as effectively as Dawn Oshima (lighting design) and Kurt Yamasaki and Dan Hale (sound design) do in suggesting the passing of time and the cultural milieu of DHT's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

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