First Posted: 3/11/2012

It has been 50 years since Ken Kesey’s debut novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was first published in 1962. At that time it was received with both criticism and acclaim.

Since its publication, there have been popular movie and stage adaptations of the novel. Most movie buffs are familiar with its 1975 film version with Jack Nicholson in the role of R.P. MacMurphy, however Dale Wasserman’s stage adaptation of Kesey’s novel received much praise as well.

It made its Broadway premiere on November 13, 1964, and has been produced several times since. Most recently, the Steppenwolf Theatre produced a Broadway revival of Wasserman’s stage adaptation of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 2001. That year it received a Tony Award for Best Play Revival.

In March, the Dietrich Theater will be bringing the acclaimed play “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Dale Wasserman to Tunkhannock as the culmination of this year’s Wyoming County Reads project.

During its five-day run from March 21 through March 25, all are invited to experience this story of a rowdy misfit who lands in a mental hospital to avoid the work farm. At the hospital he doesn’t count on the complex psychological society he’s about to upend, the desperate need of the other downtrodden patients for a leader, or the sadistic control of the calm, smiling head nurse. Mischievous Randle P. MacMurphy struggles to discover who really belongs in a mental ward, and realizes that he alone can liberate the patients from the merciless Nurse Ratched. But it may be the ultimate sacrifice.

For this production, director, Jennifer Jenkins, the Dietrich’s Director of Theatre Arts and Executive Director, leads a cast of 16 community-based actors who hail from all over the region including Dalton, Nanticoke, Dallas, Springville, Tunkhannock and Scranton. Many in the cast were excited for an opportunity to be a part of a community-based production.

“When I received the call that I’d gotten the part as Nurse Ratched I felt as I would burst. Now, three weeks in, I am over the moon. I’m so lucky to be working with such a talented-fun spirited cast. Many thanks to the Dietrich Theater,” said cast member Brenda Wenner said.

“I really enjoy playing R.P. MacMurphy. He is a very interesting character to play, and with the support of the awesome cast, it should be a fantastic show,” said Duryea local, Derek Heppding, who plays the lead.

Available show dates and times for the Dietrich’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” include 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 25. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the Dietrich Theater ticket booth or by calling 570-996-1500.

According to director Jennifer Jenkins, “From government funded drug experiments of the 1960’s to the attainment of freedom from an oppressive political machine, Ken Kesey perfectly captured the essence of a changing world, and Dale Wasserman’s script is atrip of heightened dramatic realism. This production has one of the finest casts to everbeg the question -who is insane and what exactly does that mean?”

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