“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” speaks Annie Wilkes (Laurie Metcalf) to her unable to walk captive author Paul Sheldon (Bruce Willis) after a pivotal moment that shocks the audience out of its induced stupor while watching MISERY by William Goldman based on a novel by Stephen King. The same can be said of this unbelievable and sometimes silly production.
If you have the misfortune of attending – hold onto your Playbill as one day it just might be as collectible as the one for Moose Murders.
The producers – Warner Brothers Theatre Ventures and Castle Rock Entertainment are trying to pull a fast one here. Attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of some theater patrons who should know better than to be fooled by star casting, playing it for laughs, gimmicks and a cheesy script that has more holes than there are in a huge chunk of Swiss.
The good news is that is goes by rather quickly – 90 minutes – no intermission.
Better news is that Laurie Metcalf is incredibly looney, funny, scary, wild, flirty, and crafty as a psychopath who has thought of just about everything to keep the writer that she idolizes from dying after being in a car accident during a mighty snow storm in Colorado. She somehow rescues him from his smashed up car – she had been stalking him – and has brought him to her cozy cabin home to nurse him back to life. Sound familiar? It was a film starring Kathy Bates and James Caan.
She is Paul’s number one fan. She’s on first name basis to the confused coming out of a coma Paul. He’s famous for writing a series of eight novels - the main character is Misery. And Annie connects/identifies with her is an obsessive manner – with the help of God.
Not only has she rescued Paul but she has rescued his newest manuscript Misery’s Child found in his bag that doesn’t ever seem to have been in the same car with him when it crashed. Upon reading it – after asking permission – she starts to critique it and forces him to start a new Misery book – Misery Returns - by holding out his pain medication. That’s all you need to know. More than enough. The rest is an avalanche of terrible things that befall Paul.
There is not much that we learn about Paul as portrayed by action star Bruce Willis who for the most part is out of action – practically walking through the part. It’s a pity that it appears that he has never ever been this close to a typewriter ever. Couldn’t Mr. Willis have made just a little effort to convince?
On a picture perfect post card ideal winter cottage set by David Korins that rotates showing the exterior and interior rooms of the house enabling Paul – in a wheelchair - to investigate and try to do Annie in – the events unfold. But even the icicles don’t cut the mustard. And the phone is disconnected. And all roads are blocked from the storm.
This cinematically series of short scenes is directed by Will Frears as best as can be expected with some mood music by Liberace.
Leon Addison Brown has the thankless role of Buster, a cop who comes a calling to inquire about Mr. Sheldon and has his suspicions as the body has never shown up and Annie has been buying up reams of typing paper at the local store and Paul’s wife and agent are worried. Oh yes, and Annie has a pet pig that she calls Misery. Luckily the pig remains unseen. But not unheard.
There is an epilogue that allows the fans of Mr. Willis to give him the adulation that they believe he deserves for his low key performance. But the real stars of MISERY are Laurie Metcalf and set designer David Korins.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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