Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
freeFall Theatre

Larry Alexander, Michael Nichols, Steve Garland, Roxanne Fay and James Oliver
freeFall Theatre is closing out its 2013-14 season with Dale Wasserman's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, adapted from the novel by Ken Kesey. Many people will be familiar with the piece from the highly successful 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher in Academy Award winning performances. freeFall's production is immersive: part of the audience is seated on couches and at tables which are part of the recreation room of a mental hospital, circa 1960s. The entire theater has been painted light green on top of dark green, while set pieces and other details further contribute to the institutional atmosphere. Director Eric Davis uses spaces well for vivid theatricality. I felt the same way about the last production I reviewed at freeFall, The Burnt Part Boys, which I will remember as one the best musical productions of this theatrical season if not the best. My companion for the afternoon told me that he felt this was the best non musical production he has seen all season.

The large cast, 16 actors and actresses, is very strong. James Oliver as Randle P. McMurphy creates the right edginess. It is possible to imagine that he had done something outside on the streets to land himself in a mental ward instead of jail, yet he is also a person loved by all the other patients as well as two or three female friends from the outside. Roxanne Fay plays Nurse Ratched with an element of softness. Yes, she is officious because she has to be, but she does care about the well being of her men and wants the best possible for them. Fay played a more sympathetic character earlier this year at freeFall in The Normal Heart. Michael Nichols as Chief Bromden brings the emotional gravitas the role requires, it's just that Will Sampson at 6'7" was so physically imposing in the movie that his performance remains implanted in my mind. Standouts in featured roles include Larry Alexander as Dale Harding (I am imagining a fine Elwood P. Dowd from him next year), Greyson Lewis (superbly funny a few years ago in The Foreigner) as Billy Bibbit, and Rick Stutzel as Ruckly (he doesn't have much to say, but he had great presence for the physical aspects). Other fine local actors fill the smaller supporting roles to great effect.

Director Eric Davis brings out the best from his actors and his technical collaborators. Listed is an assistant director and a fight choreographer, yet there is a strongly unified vision throughout the production. Excellent work from all the technical departments listed below make One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest an example of why freeFall is one of the most exciting companies in the Sarasota Bay Area. The production has already been so successful, it has been extended for two additional weeks. It is doubtful they could add even more performances because by the company will be well into rehearsals of their opening production of the 2014-15 season, Into the Woods.

freeFall Theatre Company presents One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest through September 14, 2014, at 6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg. For ticket and performance information, visit

Cast (in alphabetical order):
Dale Harding: Larry Alexander*
Sandra: Hannah Hannah Benitez
Nurse Ratched: Roxanne Fay*
Dr. Spivey: Steve Garland*
Nurse Flinn: Kara Goldberg
Aide Turkle: Bob Devin Jones*
Martini: Peter Konowicz
Billy Bibbit: Greyson Lewis
Chief Bromden: Michael Nicols*
Randle P. McMurphy: James Oliver*
aide Williams: Darrick Penny
Aide Warren: Robert Richards Jr.
Scanlon: Leigh Simons
Cheswick: Ward G. Smith*
Ruckley: Rick Stutzel
Candy Starr: Natalie Symons
*Member of Actor's Equity Association

Director: Eric Davis
Assistant director: Kerry Giamsch
Fight Choreographer: Blake Braswell
Scenic Design: Steven K. Mitchell
Costume Design: Scott Daniel
Lighting Design
Mike Wood
Assistant Lighting Design: Cody Basham
Properties Master: Timothy Saunders*
Production Stage Manager: Daniel LeMien*
Assistant Stage Manager: Timothy Saunders*
Master Carpenter: Matt Davis
Technical Assistant: Trenten Szabo
Scenic Painter: Allison Davis

Photo: Kevin Tighe Photography

--William S. Oser

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