From page to screen to stage, Stephen King's "Misery" is now a Broadway thriller. Was NY1’s Roma Torre "its biggest fan”? She filed the following review.
Poor Paul Sheldon. He never really had a chance against Annie Wilkes, and I am not just referring to his torturous captivity at the hands of that psycho fan. As a dramatic character embodied by Bruce Willis, he is completely outshined by his co-star Laurie Metcalf. And because of that, somehow this stage adaptation of “Misery," the Stephen King horror story, is more campy than scary.
William Goldman wrote both this stage adaptation and the 1990 screenplay starring James Caan and Kathy Bates. And while the film was an entertaining blend of terror and unexpected humor, the stage scenes are almost completely devoid of tension. In its place – laughter. Yes, some of it is intentional, but the dynamic here tilts far more to the comedic.
The story about a popular novelist who gets into a crippling accident and then rescued and held captive by his number one fan is, on one level, an apt metaphor about the way that writers are held hostage by their crazed fans. But at its most basic - an innocent man held by a psychotic stalker – we should at least feel the blood pressure go up a little.
Annie keeps Paul sedated in the beginning scenes but as Willis plays him, the pills never seem to wear off. It’s a weirdly subdued performance in which even the most frightening moments are underplayed as if Willis is acting on film instead of the stage.
Metcalf is delivering a tour de force here. One moment she has us splitting a gut – the next, she threatens to do the gut splitting, quite literally. Just as Kathy Bates completely creeped us out, Metcalf achieves the same effect, though very much on her own terms.
David Korins’ scenic design is ideal for this story with its rotating rooms; and Michael Friedman’s original music sets an eerie tone; but even with that famous leg-bashing scene, Will Frears’ direction fell limp.
I kept thinking what Alfred Hitchcock would have done with this story. Unfortunately, it’s not just Paul’s legs that are hobbled here, it’s the entire show.