The tension on stage felt real as McMurphy yelled his anger out at Harding. “Why don’t you do something?” he screamed. Frustration contorted Harding’s face as he tried to justify the actions of Nurse Ratched. His shoulders collapsed in defeat and the tears on his face glistened in the light of the stage. “The bitch… the bitch,” he muttered, his face in his hands. The feeling in the air instantly switched from fearless to hopeless. McMurphy moved to put a hand of support on Harding’s back, the first selfless thing he had done since arriving at the mental institution.
Oyster River’s fall play this year is One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, originally a novel by Ken Kesey which was later adapted for the stage. Taking place in a mental institution in Oregon in the late 1950’s, the show revolves around character, Randle Patrick McMurphy, played by Liev Manck (‘19). McMurphy is transferred to from a prison to the ward run by a strict nurse named Nurse Ratched, played by Skylar Hamilton (‘18). Being the first main stage show Oyster River has ever repeated, here is a brief preview of what the audience has to expect and look forward to from the show.
Meredith Freeman-Caple, is a teacher at Oyster River High School and runs the school’s theatre department, not only picking and casting the shows but also directing them. The pressure is on when picking the fall play and Freeman-Caple indicated about the amount of work she puts into doing just that. “I do a lot of looking, reading, and weighing that out with what potential actors I have to work with this year. For each production I think about that,” said Freeman-Caple.
Expressing her love for the play, Freeman-Caple discusses what originally attracted her to the play and why she has chosen to do it once again. “Originally, ten years ago, Cam Brown played McMurphy and he was built to play this role, and I haven’t really had a kid since him that is just right for that role.” Moving on to say why she chose to repeat it, Freeman-Caple said, “I [again] happen to have an actor who was built to play the main character,” she said in reference to Manck.
With great faith in the ability of her actors, Freeman-Caple consistently picks plays that challenge them as performers. Ian Miles (‘19), a committed member of Oyster River’s theatre department is playing Billy Bibbit, a younger character at the ward. “My character has a stutter in the play and that has been very tough to nail down, but I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it,” said Miles.
It is also crucial to Freeman-Caple that she picks a show that is relevant and can speak to the audience. “It’s dramatic. It’s a piece of history. Mental institutions and asylums in the fifties were pretty horrible places to be, and it’s a way of just looking into how far we’ve come, and yet there’s so much more to do,” she said.
A strong and dedicated cast isn’t the only thing to look forward to from this upcoming play. Scott Caple, Meredith’s husband and set designer, along with Nate Sullivan (‘18), the tech director, have been working hard on the set and tech aspects of the show. “My mind tried to go into the heads of the characters. For example the hospital staff, they have to make sure that the place is clean and the equipment is in good repair and the toilets aren’t broken and so forth,” Caple explained. “From the patient standpoint, they’re locked in here, so there has to be that feeling of kind of institutional, ‘I’m stuck here.’”
Oyster River’s production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is set to open this Thursday October 26, and run until Saturday October 28, all at 7pm. Be sure to check out Voice of the River’s episode featuring some cast members from the show here. As an audience member, take it from Sullivan: “just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.”