ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
Most people know “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” from the classic film adaptation, starring Jack Nicholson. Some people have read the Ken Kesey novel it was adapted from. The stage play, released between the two, is less widely known.
Dale Wasserman's stage adaptation came to Broadway just a year after the book, and starred Kirk Douglas and Gene Wilder. A whole 12 years passed until the movie was made.
The play exists somewhere between the two, bridging the formats of the novel and the film. One major change from the movie is that reinstates Chief Bromden as narrator, which the movie eliminated.
Kesey’s novel was published in 1962, during burgeoning movements in civil rights and mental health care. Kesey spent time working in a state institution and also participated in military drug experiments, which influenced the novel's themes of discovering individualism.
McMurphy, who explodes into the lives of the other men in the ward, is a symbol for the power of individual freedom. What ultimately happens to McMurphy is not meaningless, because of what he does for the rest of the men in the ward. You see where they begin the piece. They're just in this spinning repetition of things with no sense that any of this can change. And he shows them a different path.