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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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The character known as R.P. McMurphy has become an icon of American anti-heroism. Made internationally famous by the Oscar-winning 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, starring Jack Nicholson as McMurphy--in one of several of his Academy Awarded screen performances--Cuckoo's Nest began as a novel by counter-culture author Ken Kesey. In 1963, a year subsequent to the book's publication, Dale Wasserman's stage adaptation premiered on Broadway, with Kirk Douglas assaying the role of McMurphy.

Since then, Cuckoo's Nest has had two big-time Broadway revivals, an off-Broadway staging, and it has become a production staple in small theaters across the land. Now, So Cal audiences have the opportunity to see a fine mounting of this manic, melancholy theatrical masterwork at Fullerton's Maverick Theater, through February 21.

It's a simple story of a thirty-something rough and roguish inmate (McMurphy, embodied with command and charisma by Brennan Thomas), who is transferred from a prison farm to a mental institution for an open-ended observation and evaluation period. There he encounters an assortment of so-called psycho-ceramics (read crackpots), sadistic attendants, and control freaks (exemplified by Head Nurse Ratched, chillingly incarnated by Julie Patzer). Though there are a multitude of hilarious moments in Cuckoo's Nest, Director Ryan White does not distort the comedy so that we lose track of the seriousness of the situation or the powerful impact of the tragedies that lie in store and define the plotline of Cuckoo's Nest. What's more, White's sterile scenic design, with its drab green interiors and fluorescent-like lighting (by Jim Book) evokes the ennui and horror we've come to associate with depersonalized institutionalization.

Moreover, Cuckoo's Nest offers a lineup of characters that are wholly fulfilled by this canny cast of actors. Though Thomas and Patzer are completely committed (no pun intended) to their roles as protagonist and antagonist, respectively, there are 13 other performers here who contribute both heart and soul to the proceedings.

As Chief Bromden, the mute American Indian, Enrique Munoz is marvelously and movingly emotional. Stan Morrow as Dale Harding is as natural as the uptight neighbor next door. But also, Scott Keister as the bomb-obsessed Frank Scanlon, Drew Boudreau as flighty Anthony Martini and Ryan Coon as brooding Charles Cheswick are all sadly believable as characters who no longer believe in themselves.

Still, it is David Chorely as mama's boy Billy Bibbit who brought tears to this critic's eyes. His tirades and emotional meltdowns allow us to witness psychological upheaval up close and personal. It is an unrelenting, unforgettable portrayal.

From Thomas's McMurphy to Danesh Noshirvan and Steve Jones's ward aides to Kelsie Blackwell and Lindsay Sundman's turns as unlikely party girls, on to Larry Creagan's little jewel of a performance as Dr. Spivey and Wayne Munchel's silent but haunting presence as a lobotomized patient--this Maverick Theater production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a near perfect ensemble. In fact, you'd be crazy to miss this show.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest continues through February 21 at the Maverick Theater--110 East Walnut Avenue, Fullerton. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, with a matinee at 3 p.m. on Saturdays. For reservations, dial (714) 526 - 7070. For more information and online ticketing, visit HYPERLINK ""



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.