One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a classic piece of American literature, and while many have scene the film version with Jack Nicholson, the stage version has had a quieter history.
The Edge aims to bring the show to vibrant light with its production, which runs Thursdays through Sundays until June 30 at the theater, 1560 Teller St.
“Even though it is kind of a period piece, it’s really a timeless show,” said director Rick Yaconis. “Depending on which character you look at, you can do a different story.”
Narrated by Indian “Chief” Bromden — a patient in an Oregon psychiatric hospital — the story focuses on rabble-rouser Randle P. McMurphy, who transferred to the hospital from a prison work farm, thinking this will give him an easy way to serve out his time. What starts out as a lark — hustling the patients, causing trouble for the staff — turns into something more when he realizes the inspiring effect he is having on the patients.
His cushy stay is also interrupted when he calls down the wrath of Nurse Ratched, who runs the hospital with a near-totalitarian grip.
What ensues is a struggle to maintain one’s individuality.
While the original story shows very little sympathy for Ratched, Yaconis said he wanted to tell the story from her viewpoint as much as possible, since in her mind, she is doing the right thing.
“She’s a woman in what many call a man’s world, trying to gain control,” he said.
“For me, I wanted to take a look at how someone reacts when that power slips from their grasp because of outside forces.”
Jada Roberts, who plays Ratched, said that she focused more on what Ratched’s intentions are than what the other characters think of her.
“She cares in a very big, strong way. The manner in which she demonstrates it is sort of this low boil,” Roberts said.
“There’s certainly an element in her that likes the control and things to be a certain way, so it really throws her for a loop when someone tries to take that.”
Roberts said that she hopes audiences have some kind of catharsis during the play and if she gets people to hate her character, that just means she’s done her job.
The 15-character play is the largest The Edge has ever done, and Yaconis said that it has been a challenge, but interesting because even the smaller roles are significant.
Yaconis wanted the actors playing characters with mental illnesses to make their performances as real as possible, and to research their parts.
“It’s a fine line because it’s supposed to be at least a little funny, but you don’t want it to be cartoonish,” he said.
“We don’t say what illnesses the characters have, but rather let the audience try to figure it out.”
The play is very much a comedic drama, Yaconis added, and said the new spin The Edge is putting on the story will really impress.
“’Cuckoo’s Nest’ is a classic, but we wanted to do a different take on it,” he said.
“It’s darker, wilder and has a little more bite. I think people will be blown away by the quality of the acting and the story.”