Players to stage ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

The Community Players will present “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” early next month at the Wor-Wic Community College Auditorium. Above, Kim Cuesto portrays Nurse Ratched and Jason Bruce performs as McMurphy.

Directing a play is a huge commitment of time and energy. It helps if the script is compelling.

“There has to be something about it, like if I’m reading a script and I’m holding it tightly because it’s exciting,” said Pete Cuesta, who is in the final stages of preparation for the Community Players of Salisbury’s latest offering: “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”

It’s not the adrenalin-rush variety of excitement that’s popular in movies today, yet it has persisted as a story that seems as relevant today as it did nearly six decades ago.

The novel of the same name, written by Ken Kesey and published in 1962, premiered on Broadway in 1963 and returned to Broadway in 1972 featuring Danny DeVito. It was released on film in 1975. In 2001, the play hit Broadway again featuring Gary Sinise.

“It’s a poignant story, I think,” said Cuesta, “that examines the human condition, how people feel and react. I would hope it’s the kind of thing you would, after experiencing it, want to go sit somewhere and discuss with others.”

The play follows more along the lines of the movie. There’s far more backstory in the novel, of course, but according to Cuesto, novelist Kesey said the movie fell short when it came to character development. The play, he said, focuses more on character development than the movie did.

“There are subtleties here that bring some characters out,” said Cuesta. In the movie, you never learn much about Scanlon or Martini, but we bring out more of those characters here in our production.

While some plays seem to make the rounds of local theater troupes and high school drama productions every few years, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a first for the longstanding Players repertoire.

The play, Cuesto said, is Rated R for language and sexual innuendos.

‘Although the language is relatively tame in today’s world,” he said, “it was scandalous in the 1960s. Still, it’s the edgiest production Players has ever done.”

The lead role,  Randle Patrick McMurphy, features a first-time actor, Jason Bruce.

“This is my first role, but I’ve always wanted to try acting,” said Bruce. “My daughter sings and does musicals. I told her if she tried out for ‘Matilda,’ I’d audition for a play this year too. L saw the play lineup, had read the novel and seen the movie, and so I chose to audition for this one.”

“Jason came in and we said ‘Oh my God, he’s McMurphy,” Cuesto said.

Cuesto’s wife Kim was cast as Nurse Ratched. Rehearsals started in November, punctuated by pauses for the winter holidays.

“It’s great to have a cast with so much experience to work with,” said Kim Cuesto.

“There’s a different dynamic here,” said Bruce. “I know acting is competitive, and everyone here is good, but there is never any cattiness. Everybody’s super supportive. As a new actor, when in doubt I choose to pore over the script, get the details down and see what it called for originally.”

“There’s never any cattiness here,” Kim Cuesto confirmed. “This is definitely a team sport.”

“This is a labor of love for everyone here, it’s a passion,” Cuesto said.

The cast also includes Mike Murphy, an ER doctor at Peninsula Regional Medical Center, who plays the role of Warren Harding; Steven Culver, a Players veteran who is cast as Martini; and Matt Bogdan, another Players veteran, is cast as the chief.

“It comes out that his mother is white and his father is an Indian,” said Kim Cuesto. “Matt really had the talent for this role, in that the chief is a much more developed character. It’s a hard role to play.”

In the play, Cuesto said, McMurphy is a heroic character.

“Patients on the ward all improve and start to get better because of his influence,” he said. “Even the chief has less-frequent of those vignettes, because he’s starting to come out of his head.”

“People don’t have to go out of town for good theater,” Cuesta said.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will be performed Friday, Jan. 31, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 1, 2 and 8 p.m.; Thursday, Feb. 6 and Friday, Feb. 7, 8 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m.

The play will be presented at the Wor-Wic Community College Auditorium. Tickets $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors.

For tickets and more information, call 410-546-0099 or go to SBYplayers.com.

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