By John Dalton-White
WICHITA - Signature Theatre will begin its 2018 theatre season with Dale Wasserman’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, to be presented at the Wichita Scottish Rite Theatre Jan. 19-20 at 8pm and Jan. 21 at 7pm.
A boisterous, ribald and ultimately devastating story of a mental hospital and its inhabitants, Nurse Ratched (played by Teri Mott) runs her ward with icy efficiency. With a firm hand on medication, treatment and basic necessities, her word is law and dissent is punished. Into this isolated world struts Randle P. McMurphy (played by Quinn Warren), a charming rogue who has chosen a stint in the mental institution rather than face prison. Brash and rebellious, McMurphy soon ignites a power struggle that can only end in their mutual destruction.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is best remembered for the Oscar-winning film version that starred Jack Nicholson. The original Broadway production premiered in 1963 and featured a cast that included Kirk Douglas and Gene Wilder.
“Doing a show like this is challenging for your actors, which is important to me,” said Deb Campbell, who serves as Signature’s artistic director. “And it’s also challenging for audiences in the sense that it may make them uncomfortable or just make them think.”
Due largely to the success of the film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nurse Ratched has achieved iconic stature as one of the greatest villains of all-time. Still, there’s a complexity about her and she’s far from being a one-dimensional character.
“The thing about Miss Ratched is that she’s not outwardly evil,” Campbell said. “That’s what makes her so evil — that her evil is subtle and is within the realm of normal everyday behavior. She’s not just this person who walks in and starts beating people; she subtly terrorizes and manipulates, which is actually even scarier.
“It’s really interesting because early on in the play McMurphy says, ‘I’m used to being top man in every situation,’” Campbell said. “Well, then along comes Nurse Ratched, who is the top dog and is used to being the top dog for a decade at this ward.”
With a penchant for presenting plays that often deal with contemporary issues and deliver thought-provoking messages, Signature Theatre selected this award-winning, ground-breaking play, which is set in a mental institution in the 1960s. It offers a harsh and compelling view of both the individuals suffering from mental health conditions and the mental health professionals who are entrusted with their care and treatment.
“I like doing these shows where a lot of really good actors can come together and do something dramatic and inspiring and sad and crazy and happy — all those things rolled into one — and this show, for sure, has all of those,” Campbell said, “This production plays out mankind’s efforts to retain some semblance of individuality, dignity and freedom in a world in which society demands that we conform.”
Other cast members include: Chief Bromden (Steffan Rowe); Dale Harding (Dan E. Campbell); Billy Bibbit (Noah Segard); Scanlon (Paul Savage); Cheswick (Scott Oppegard); Martini (Walter Stewart); Aide Warren (Matt Gurley); Aide Williams (Matt Jacobs); Dr. Spivey (Greg Dalton-White); Nurse Flinn (Dawn Schnake); Aide Turkle (Landon Hochstatter); Candy Starr (Sarah Wine); Sandra (Julie Williams).
Kathy Woodward serves as the Assistant Director and John Dalton-White at the Stage Manager.
Tickets are $18, $14 and $10 and can be purchased at the door or at selectaseat.com. l
NOTE: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest contains occasional strong language and mature themes and is recommended for ages 15 and up.