Dale Wasserman, 94, a playwright best known for writing the book for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical

Man of La Mancha

and the stage version of Ken Kesey's novel

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

, died last Sunday of congestive heart failure at his home in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

From writing live television dramas in the 1950s, Mr. Wasserman went on to write screenplays for several films, including The Vikings (1958), starring Kirk Douglas, and Mister Buddwing (1966), starring James Garner.

But it was as one of America's most-produced living playwrights, thanks largely to Man of La Mancha, that he was best known over the last four decades.

Man of La Mancha, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, opened in 1965 and closed in 1971 after more than 2,300 performances in four New York theaters.

The musical - based on the life of Spanish novelist and playwright Miguel de Cervantes and Cervantes' famous literary creation, Don Quixote - won five Tony Awards, including best musical, best composer and lyricist, and best actor in a musical (for Richard Kiley).

In 1997, Mr. Wasserman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Man of La Mancha had been translated into at least 40 languages and, "There are always between 40 and 50 productions going on at any given moment."

The musical, Mr. Wasserman told the Los Angeles Times in 1994, "speaks across borders well, without any references to political situations - it's about as close to universal as one can get. I didn't know when I was writing it, of course."

Mr. Wasserman was born Nov. 2, 1914, in Rhinelander, Wis. Orphaned at 9, he lived in a state orphanage and briefly with an older brother in South Dakota before hitting the rails.

"I'm a self-educated hobo," Mr. Wasserman told Southern California's Daily Breeze in 2001. "My entire adolescence was spent as a hobo, riding the rails and alternately living on top of buildings on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.

"The only education I got was by reading. . . . I regret never having received a formal education. But I did get a real education about human nature, though that was a tough one at times."

Before his death, Mr. Wasserman was working on several new plays and looking forward to the opening of his new comedy Premiere! at Theater Works in Peoria, Ariz., next month.jan

- Los Angeles Times