‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ star says character more sympathetic as play evolves

As far as Daniel Martin is concerned, Randle P. McMurphy is a very likable guy, right from the very

As far as Daniel Martin is concerned, Randle P. McMurphy is a very likable guy, right from the very first minute he walks out on stage.

“What happens is he doesn’t use the sarcastic humor as the show gets a little deeper and more emotional later on,” said Martin, who will play McMurphy in the Classic Theater Guild production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” opening Friday in the Fenimore Gallery at Proctors and running for two weekends.

Gaining compassion

“He’s actually quite likable throughout the show because he is funny, but as he starts learning more about the patients, these people he has nothing in common with, he starts caring about them. He’s the one who is sticking up for them.”

While Kirk Douglas and Gary Sinise both played McMurphy on the Broadway stage, it was Jack Nicholson who made the character famous in the 1975 film version. Martin saw the movie when he was younger but hasn’t seen it in some time and is not about to.

‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ by the Classic Theater Guild

WHERE: Fenimore Gallery at Proctors

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23-25 and 2 p.m. Feb. 26

HOW MUCH: $17.50-$14.50

MORE INFO: 346-6204, proctors.org

“No, I refuse to see it,” said Martin, a Schenectady native. “I don’t want to take anything from what [Nicholson] did.”

The play is based on the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey and was adapted for the stage in 1963 by Dale Wasserman, who also wrote the book for “Man of La Mancha.”

The show opens with McMurphy, who has recently been arrested for committing statutory rape of a 15-year-old, convincing a doctor he is insane and thus being sent to a mental institution instead of a prison.

Once there, he begins interacting with the other patients as well as Nurse Ratched, and it is McMurphy’s rather confrontational relationship with the nurse that carries the story along.

The show’s Broadway debut in 1963 marked Kirk Douglas’ return to the stage, but the critics didn’t like the production and Douglas returned to Hollywood and remained in films. The play opened in November and closed in January of 1964.

Another stage version, a much better one evidently, played on Broadway in 2001 and won a Tony Award for Best Revival. Sinise was nominated for a Tony in the role of McMurphy.

Characters evolve

“I like the show because there are a lot of different levels to it,” said Martin. “McMurphy really evolves during the show, and we also get to see Nurse Ratched evolve. Nurse Ratched, however, is very sadistic. She’s not a nice nurse.”

Playing Nurse Ratched in the Classic Theater Guild production is Rie Lee, while Phil Matthei is Dr. Spivey. Both actors played those same roles in a 2007 production of “Cuckoo’s Nest” staged by the Classic Theater Guild.

Amanda Stankavich is directing the show, while also in the cast are Andrew J. Poole as Billy Bibbit, Hannah Stenzel as Candy Starr, George Filieau as Dale Harding, John H. Reheuser as Scanlon, Jeff Lurie as Cheswick, Mark David as Martini and Michael Lake as Chief Bromden.

The Classic Theater Guild decided to produce the show again so soon because in 2007 they were in the middle of a venue crisis.

“We had staged this play when we were going through a transition of venue with our theater company and were trying different options in the Capital District, before we came across a good fit of producing all our shows at Proctors,” said Stankavich.

“As much as it was a great experience the first time around, we are very pleased to now bring this play to Proctors for both weekends.”

Most recently, Martin played John Proctor in the Classic Theater Guild production of “The Crucible,” and he also performed with the Schenectady Civic Players in their production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

“I’m also doing commercials and am currently working on an independent movie,” said Martin, who graduated from Mohonasen High School and Long Island University. “I’m probably more suited for the stage, but I like film and I like having the opportunity to go back and forth between them.”

Rie is a regular in the Capital Region theater community, having also worked at Curtain Call Theatre, Albany Civic Theater, Schenectady Civic Playhouse, Home Made Theater and the Bridge Theater in Whitehall.

Categories: Life and Arts

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