Laurie Metcalfe puts on an acting showcase as a fanatical devotee in Misery, William Goldman’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel. The actress is at times caring, playful, creepy and vengeful. She is someone to be feared and reckoned with. Whether you have never read the book or seen the movie version (like myself) or are familiar with the source material you will find the stage production generating a good many chills and thrills.
The plot of the show is simple—recluse Annie Wilkes has rescued writer Paul Sheldon (Bruce Willis) from a car wreck near her secluded Colorado home. Badly injured, she nurses him back to health. But her motives are not purely altruistic as the self-professed number one fan has more diabolical reasons to mend Sheldon’s injuries. The result is a convincingly suspenseful play with a sufficient number of twists and gasps.
From the serene beginnings, playwright William Goldman slowly builds up the tension of the story, producing a tranquil environment that goes horribly wrong. He has transformed the essence of the novel into a 90 minute, intermission-less heart-stopping production. As a screenwriter (All the President’s Men) and novelist (Marathon Man) the author knows how to weave a dramatic and spine-tingling tale that keeps the audience on its toes.
The cast is led by the fabulous Laurie Metcalfe. There are not enough superlatives to describe her singular performance. She can be flirty one moment and a vindictive, retaliatory presence the next. Metcalfe successfully brings to life to a very complex and disturbed character. Bruce Willis, on the other hand, is, initially, too lethargic in his role as the battered author. Granted, he lies helpless in bed for the first part of the play, but he doesn’t deliver his lines with real emotion or conviction. However, as the show moves towards its dramatic finish he does become more animated and vested in his part. Leon Addison Brown is fine in the small but crucial role of the sheriff.
Director Will Frears skillfully uses the confined and suffocating space to tease out a building tension within the play. The production is well-paced as it almost lazily heads towards its crescendo. He allows Laurie Metcalfe plenty of room for her acting pyrotechnics without letting the actress go over the edge.
The creative team of Scenic Designer, David Korins; Lighting Designer, David Weiner; and Sound Designer, Darron L. West have contributed greatly to the eerie ambiance of the play. Without their artistic involvement the production would not nearly be as fun and ominous. Special kudos go to set designer, David Korins for his revolving house with its multitude of rooms and Michael Friedman for his original music, which often sets a haunting and menacing tone to the show.
Misery, better then you might expect, now through February 14th.