Randal P. McMurphy (Cory Burns, second from left) confronts Nurse Ratched (Katie Glessner) as Aide Warren (Jerry Sawyer, left) and Frank Scanlan (Tom Maycock, center) look on in the Belfast Maskers' production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Credit: Courtesy of Jeffrey Mabee

Randle Patrick McMurphy figures being confined to a psychiatric hospital is easier than scrambling for power on a prison work farm. So, he fakes insanity and is sentenced to the hospital for battery and gambling.

McMurphy’s rebellious nature is embraced by his fellow patients and, at times, thwarted by the sadistic staff, including Nurse Ratched, who, until he showed up, controlled her ward with soul-smashing precision.

Belfast Maskers’ production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” again proves how much theatrical talent resides in Waldo County. The play is as funny, poignant and moving as when the company first performed the show more than two decades ago.

This new production, delayed from last fall by the pandemic, perfectly captures all of the fighting spirit Ken Kesey poured into the novel and his lead character, Randal Patrick McMurphy, and maintains the dignity he gave patients in a psychiatric hospital. The cast creates a fine ensemble headed by Cory Burns as McMurphy.

From left to right: Billy Bibbit (Dakota Wing), Dale Harding (Mark Durbin), Anthony Martini (Tyler Johnstone), Randal P. McMurphy (Cory Burns) and Charles Cheswick, (Erik Perkins) discuss changes on the ward in the Belfast Maskers’ production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Credit: Courtesy of Jeffrey Mabee

The actor, who chews gum and smokes at the same time, rarely holds still. Burns’ McMurphy is a ball of pent-up energy, constantly moving and connecting with those confined to the hospital with him. He is continually scheming about ways to improve conditions at the hospital, and all of his plans break all of the rules.

Physically, Burns is one of the smallest actors on stage but he uses that to his advantage by being able to outwit the staff most of the time. His swagger resembles that of James Cagney in his many gangster roles on film, and Burns’ McMurphy grows larger — metaphorically — throughout the play.

Katie Glessner gives Nurse Ratched a cool, detached and condescending demeanor but is not quite sadistic enough in the role. Ratched is almost always one step ahead of McMurphy but Glessner rarely shows the schemer inside the starched, white uniform.

One of the most difficult roles in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is that of Chief Bromden, a member of the Chinook tribe. He speaks directly to the audience but for most of the play does not talk to his fellow patients.

Peter Conant, who is not a Native American, infuses the role with a quiet dignity and is an almost constant presence on stage. He and Burns communicate with an electricity that is almost visible. Conant is taller than Burns by almost his head and shoulders, yet these actors gently and respectfully portray how tight the bond between these characters becomes.

Billy Bibbit (Dakota Wing, left), begs Nurse Ratched (Katie Glessner, right) to keep a secret from his mother as Chief Bromden (Peter Conant, center) watches in the Belfast Maskers’ production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Credit: Courtesy of Jeffrey Mabee

Two other actors stand out in the ensemble — Mark Durbin as Dale Harding and Dakota Wing as Billy Bibbit. Durbin emphasizes Harding’s humanity and survival instincts despite the character’s fear of his well-endowed wife. As the stammering Billy, Wing’s swings from terrified boy to an adolescent on the verge of manhood are emotionally raw. Wing, who looks like he played football or soccer in high school, somehow makes Billy small when he’s confronted by Nurse Ratched. It is a devastating performance.

In the small role of Candy Starr, a prostitute McMurphy sneaks into the hospital, Autumn Stupca is delightful. She matches Burns’ energy level molecule for molecule and adds a dash of danger to the character for good measure.

Director Meg Nickerson, artistic director for the Maskers, almost perfectly cast the show and beautifully paces the production to its tragic and compelling climax. The production team, made up of set designer John Bielenberg, lighting designer Jared Nickerson and costume designer Linda Marie, created a realistic-looking production set for 1960.

Playwright Dale Wasserman adapted Kesey’s book for the stage the year after it was published in 1962. The 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson won five Oscars, including best picture.

The Maskers produced the show in March 2001 after its home in a former railroad freight house on the waterfront was converted from a proscenium stage to one where the audience sat on three sides of the stage.

The Maskers were forced to vacate the building when the city’s insurance policy stopped covering it. The building was demolished in 2015.

The company was without a permanent home until 2018, when it purchased the former Universalist Church at 17 Court St., built in 1839. The building is named the Basil Burwell Community Theater, nicknamed “The Bazz,” after the Maskers’ founder.

This fine production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” again proves that the Maskers, founded in 1987, are one of the most vibrant and talented community theater companies in Maine.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Basil Burwell Community Theater, 17 Court St., Belfast. For more information, visit belfastmaskers.com or call 207-370-2316.