When: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday, Jan. 17-19, 24-26; 2 p.m. Jan. 19
Where: Riverside Playhouse, 233 B N. Wenatchee Ave.
Tickets: $15 adults, $5 students at the door with ID, $12 Thursdays for Music Theatre of Wenatchee members
Rating: “R” for profanity and references to sex
Information: pacwen.org, 663-2787
WENATCHEE — Jared Morgan and Matthew Pippin found their stride as murdering burglars in “Wait Until Dark,” then went on to become Vietnam veterans, Texas rednecks, mule drivers in the Spanish Inquisition and members of a traveling Wild West show. That’s just a sampling of the roles they’ve taken during their 10-play acting streak in the past year.
Their biggest challenge, and perhaps one of their last, begins tonight at the Riverside Playhouse in Wenatchee. Morgan stars as Randall McMurphy, a criminal who inspires a patient rebellion at a psychiatric institution in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Pippin is Dale Harding, an early rival who becomes McMurphy’s strongest supporter by the end. Tiffany Mausser portrays Nurse Ratched, the cold oppressive authority determined to keep McMurphy and the others behind lock and key forever.
“This type of story is extremely important to me,” director Cynthia Brown said. “It’s one man’s fight against fear, and using his charisma, he inspires others to reject fear.”
Brown directed “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in the late ’90s with the Mission Creek Players, but she didn’t have the cast or special effects she does now, she said.
One of the show’s biggest challenges is recreating the schizophrenic episodes Chief Bromden, portrayed by Vern Smith, as he narrates the story. It’s an effect Ken Kesey, author of the book, was able to accomplish by working at a mental institution and taking LSD.
“We’re trying to have things that light up and move, sound effects layered and built, lighting effects, we need videos created and projected on the stage,” Brown said. “It’s a very technical show.”
Brown is taking a more original interpretation of the book than the 1975 Jack Nicholson movie. Brown wanted a thick-necked, muscular rebel to lead the ward, so Morgan hit the gym with a personal trainer for the part. Pippin also lost 40 pounds to portray Harding more like he was written — with movie-star good looks.
“They’re both very serious about their art,” Brown said. “They both think of themselves as craft people and they don’t have an ego associated with that.”
Morgan said there has been no competition between him and Pippin throughout the 10 consecutive shows they’ve done together in the past year. Their acting styles are too different, he said.
“I can’t think of any roles we would have fought over,” Morgan said. “My forte is villains, although I haven’t played any lately. That’s my strong suite, the antagonist. And he’s hilarious; he’s a good comic relief. I’ve said for a long time that he’s the best actor in this town.”
Pippin spent nine years acting in New York, first as a student at the American Academy of Musicals and Theater, then professionally. Morgan earned a degree in theater at Central Washington University. Both 30, the two met at the Hurricane Lounge after auditioning for “Wait Until Dark” last fall.
“That’s when we got the phone calls that we’d gotten the parts,” Morgan said. “We started hanging out and wound up becoming close friends fast.”
“One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will be one of their last shows together, at least for a while. After 17 months, one show after another, Pippin said he needs a break. Morgan will go on to play Fonzie in “Happy Days” this spring.
Eventually, Pippin wants to return to New York, and Morgan said he hopes to join him there.
“We’re the new Martin and Lewis,” Pippin said jokingly. “If we keep this up, we’re going to be as popular as back hair by next year. We gotta work on getting cameos now.”
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139