One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
At first glance, Kesey’s 1962 individualist anthem hasn’t aged so well. The free-thinking, acting-out philosophy symbolized by Randle Patrick McMurphy (D’Addario), a low-level troublemaker wrongly committed to a mental institution, seems simplistic-to-quaint in an era when “rebellion” and “iconoclasm” have been completely commodified. And its once-shocking gestures have been compromised by their own success, rendering themselves unremarkable in the cultural landscape they helped transfigure. But as much as times change, Cuckoo’s core statement remains relevant: The depersonalizing control exerted by common society is mirrored by that of the mental-health profession.
The Gift’s production of this classic won’t make anyone forget Jack Nicholson’s turn in the film, but it sets forth the universal truths perhaps obscured by his giant performance. Force-of-nature D’Addario brings the role, which is Christlike as written, down to earth, conveying the benefit (and disaster) such figures can exert, while leaving room for the true subjects of this parable—Joseph as the supposedly deaf-mute Chief Bromden and Massey as veteran voluntary inmate Dale Harding—to evolve naturally onstage, resulting in a truly transcendent triangle. The chilly counterpoint of Nurse Ratched (Main) rounds out this considered, convincing, beautifully acted snapshot of everything that’s (thankfully) gone away since the novel was written—as well as what (unfortunately) hasn’t.