On the surface, Dale Wasserman's stage adaptation of Ken Kesey's famed novel seems to be mostly about who's crazy and who's not. Randall P. McMurphy (Christian Holiday) is a rebellious firecracker, clever enough to figure out that the way to escape drudgework on a work-farm detail is to feign mental instability. But once he's locked up in the local rubber room, he discovers that most of his fellow inmates are there voluntarily. Because he is working off a prison sentence, McMurphy has been committed—and that puts him under the control of the icy Nurse Ratched (Alice Ensor), who's as much of a manipulator as he is.
The big power struggles in this story are ultimately about control: who has it, how they use it, and how someone else can take it away. The skillful playing of that subtext is also largely what's missing from director Macario Gaxiola's otherwise standard production. Holiday makes for a charming, roguish McMurphy, although he seems too young to play this 35-year-old con artist. Holiday also lacks that swaggering sense of self-confidence that comes from always having another ace up his sleeve; his is a less knowing bravado that's not supported by McMurphy's criminal record of violence, drunkenness, petty crimes, and statutory rape.
Ensor doesn't make much of an adversary for him, either. We get superficial emotions from her—but nothing that feels lived in. Her smarmy sincerity is passable, but her cold calculations, which lead to McMurphy's undoing, barely carry a believable frost. Of the other inmates, Jim O'Heir acquits himself nicely as the impotent Dale Harding. John Ainsworth is also notable as the sensitive, stuttering Billy Bibbit, and Randi Haynes has a nice turn as McMurphy's sweet floozy of a girlfriend, Candy Starr. Gregg Lawrence is fine as the presumably catatonic Chief Bromden, who, thanks to strength gained from McMurphy, takes final control at the end of the show.
Two Blue Chairs provides the credible asylum scenic design; Extended Visions and Black Box Sound offer suitable light- and sound designs, respectively.
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," presented by and at The Theatre District, 804 N. El Centro, Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. (Jun. 12 & 19, July 3 & 17), Sun. 7 p.m.( Jun. 26, July 10 & 24). Jun. 10-Jul. 30. $15. (323) 957-2343.