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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

Actor doesn't try to evoke Jack for this 'Nest'

• Notes on three other productions
• On stage

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Allen Cole portrays Randle P. McMurphy and Bridget Kelly plays Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," a drama by Dale Wasserman that opens tonight at Diamond Head Theatre.

Photos by Brad Goda

From left, Reb Allen, Scot Davis, Junior Tesoro and Jonathan Sypert star in Honolulu Theatre for Youth's production of "War."
"I don't do Jack."

So said Allen Cole, who portrays Randle P. McMurphy in Diamond Head Theatre's production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," opening tonight. It is one of four stage premieres this weekend and next (see box).

"It's an identifiable role," said Cole, who, like many, can't quite erase the memory of Jack Nicholson's riveting portrayal in the film version of the hit play. "I had to get over it. And soon as you start diving in, you start doing it your way, with your own ideas. The main thing, for me, was having that novel to read and re-read. I kept reading it throughout the rehearsal period."

The play, by Dale Wasserman, is based on the novel by Ken Kesey, which has evolved as an American literature classic.

"Jack wasn't the image I was looking for," Cole said.

Yes, it has been emotionally draining, immersing emotion and soul into McMurphy. "For three hours a night, there's that burst of energy to create the part, but once you get rolling, you lose the sense of time," Cole said.

"Psycho," he said of the prevailing mood.

"Of course, the irony is that he's the sane one in the group and plays a major part in the healing of the others (in the asylum)."

It's Cole's first stab at the part, which he really wanted to do. He speaks highly of the ensemble cast, which includes Bridget Kelly as Nurse Ratched, and director Bill Ogilvie.

"I think it has the potential of being great theater," Cole said. "It's different from the movie and the book and people go to a play with some expectations." He cited the time he was in a stage production of the courtroom drama "A Few Good Men," and some in the audience expected to see the movie version.

"This play is a tragedy; the fatal flaw is an irreversible decision that dooms McMurphy, but saves others. He kinda knows it's coming. He makes the choice."

If audiences get caught up in the emotional drive of the moment, Cole said he knows he will have succeeded. "It just can't happen the same way in a movie; in a play, you get pulled in. You see it, you touch it, you smell it."

By day, Cole works with the state Department of Education's Advanced Technology Research Branch, shuttling to nighttime rehearsals, and, in the weeks ahead, evening performances. He's also a single parent, with a 12-year-old daughter. "I know she doesn't need me as much now, compared to when she was younger, but I often bring her to rehearsals. I want her to know her dad has a passion for stage."

His last appearance on a Hawai'i stage was Kumu Kahua's "Spur" three years ago. "I had that rare haole role at Kumu," he said, chuckling.

He hates to see himself acting, or even in pictures or a mirror. "For me, it's a handicap," he said. "I don't do the mirror thing; my acting's all internal, coming from the intentions and immediacy of the character's feelings. If I looked in a mirror (playing McMurphy), I would see an unkempt person. I shut my eyes when I have my hair cut, avoiding the mirror."

• • •

Notes on three other productions

"Sea Marks" — Hawai'i Pacific University is reviving the late Gardner McKay's love story set on the Irish Sea coast and Liverpool, England, originally staged last year in a highly applauded limited independent run at Manoa Valley Theatre. The original cast has been reassembled by director Joyce Maltby; Peter Kamealoha Clark plays Colm and Annie MacLachlan is Timothea. When Colm, who writes poetic letters to Timothea, comes to live with her in the city, her publishing house publishes his "poems," and conflicts result. Re-opens tonight.

"War" — Honolulu Theatre for Youth is tackling a gritty and potentially controversial drama, by Canadian playwright Dennis Foon, which deals with the culture of violence — young men against young men, against girls, against adults. Tony Pisculli is guest director and fight choreographer; HTY company actors Jonathan Sypert (Andy) and Junior Tesoro (Shane) and actors Reb Allen (Brad) and Scot Davis (Tommy) compose the cast. Especially eyecatching: set designer's Alfredo Garma's graffiti-laden design and here-and-now costumes by Jan Dee Abraham. Because this is a traveling show (Neighbor Islands, look for stops in your area), it's a complex but compact production, with everything packed into five boxes. Premieres tomorrow.

"Art" — The Actors Group brings Yasmina Reza's Tony-Award-winning play (translated by Christopher Hampton) to its intimate playhouse. David Farmer is Serge, Russell Motter is Yvan and Mark Stitham is Marc, good friends who become unglued when they discuss and dissect a painting, trying to answer the age-old question, "What is art?" Dave Donnelly directs. Premieres Thursday.

— Wayne Harada

• • •

On stage

Three plays premiere this weekend; a fourth checks in next week:

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

  • A drama by Dale Wasserman, based on the novel by Ken Kesey
  • Premieres at 8 p.m. today; repeats at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 16.
  • Diamond Head Theatre
  • $10 to $40
  • 733-0274

"Sea Marks"

  • A drama by Gardner McKay
  • Premieres at 8 p.m. today; repeats at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 16.
  • Hawai'i Pacific University Theatre
  • $5-$14
  • 375-1282


  • A drama by Dennis Yoon; produced by Honolulu Theatre for Youth
  • Premieres at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; repeats at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 and 15.
  • Tenney Theatre, St. Andrew's Cathedral
  • $12
  • 839-9885


  • A play by Yasmina Reza; produced by The Actors Group
  • Premieres at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5; repeats at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through March 2.
  • Yellow Brick Studio, 626 Keawe St.
  • $10
  • 591-7999