SOUTH PORTLAND–“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a true tale of will power. Written by Dale Wasserman and based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kasey, it tells the story of Randle P. McMurphy, played by Jesse Seward, who is transferred to the state mental institution. He learns that a ruthless disciplinarian, Nurse Ratched, played by Jessica Libby, rules the ward with absolute authority.

The production opened on Jan. 25 at Portland Players on Cottage Road, and will continue its run on Feb. 1, 2, 8, and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and on Feb. 3 and 10 at 2:30 p.m.
This production is the only non-musical production in the Portland Players 2018-2019 season and is directed by Cullen Burke of Bath. Burke has directed one-act plays before in New York and Massachusetts, but this is his first time directing a full-length play.
“I had put out to the board that I was very interested in doing some directing here at Players,” said Burke, who recently appeared as Jon Proctor in the Portland Players production of “The Crucible.” “When this opportunity came about, I jumped on it.”
Burke leads what he calls a “brilliant” production team that includes Megan Bremermann assistant directing and costume designing, Franklin Juarez as set designer, lighting designer Jason “Chachi” Robinson, Sam Rinaldi as sound designer, Michele Danois designing props, Joanna Chantal as stage manager/producer, and Giselle “Gigi” Paquette as producer.
For Joanna Clarke, who plays prostitute “Candy Starr” in this production, working with Burke and Bremermann has been a unique opportunity for an actor.
“Even though I only have a small amount of material, every rehearsal was like a master class in acting,” Clarke said. “Because this is a straight play, there is more focus on the actors. Even when I’m not on stage, (Burke and Bremermann) give such great notes and leadership that I was learning all the time.”
Tom Call graces the Portland Players Stage for the first time as “Aide Warren,” and considers this production to be the “opportunity of a lifetime.”
“You can’t beat the source material. It’s such a great story,” Call said. “And Cullen is hands down the best director I’ve worked with, because he’s an actor’s director. He understands how to get the best performance out of you. This may be his directorial debut, but he does it like he’s been directing his whole life.”
Burke is grateful that he had a cast willing to take this inaugural journey with him.
“When you’re working with a director who’s seasoned, you know what the process will be, you know what you’re getting. This cast was willing to mesh and meld together and experience this all for the first time,” Burke said. “With such a tight-knit, solid ensemble, we could really focus on the acting. It’s been a fantastic experience.”
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was well received during its opening weekend, with Burke and cast mates enthusiastic over the turn out and feedback from audiences.
“With a straight play, you never know what will happen, especially with a drama,” Burke said. “But we’ve been selling houses of about 200 people across the board. Portland Players only does one straight show a year, and this shows that people want a little bit of a change-up. It’s been really great.”
Performances will continue on Feb.1 at 7:30. Tickets for all performances are still available and are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $15 for students and children. ASL interpretation will be available during the Feb. 3 2:30 matinee.
“It’s rare that you’ll see a show where the characters who may have only 12 lines are living a whole life during the show. Everyone is really committed fully, and it shows,” Burke said. “The success of this production is a testament to their talent, and it’s one hell of a show.”
For more information on Portland Players and to purchase tickets, visit

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