Adaptations of the works of Stephen King for film and television have been hit or miss over the years. For every The Shining or Salem’s Lot, there’s a Firestarter or The Langoliers.
Mainstream theatrical adaptations have been limited to a 2018 musical version of Carrie (a major Broadway flop but cult hit) and Misery, which had a short Broadway run in 2015 and featured Bruce Willis’ Broadway debut alongside Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theatre has a production running through Oct. 30.
The stage adaptation, like the 1990 film version, was done by playwright William Goldman, so it resembles the film more so than King’s novel.
Author Paul Sheldon (Edward McCloud) wakes up severely injured and bedridden. He has been in the care of Annie Wilkes (Mary Gannon Graham), a former nurse who happened to witness his snow-driven automobile accident and brought him back to her somewhat-isolated cabin to recuperate. Luckily for Sheldon, Wilkes is his number one fan and a passionate devotee to his Misery Chastain novels. When she discovers his latest novel will be Misery’s last, she gets a little upset. And then she gets a lot upset.
Adapting a well-known thriller for the stage can often be difficult, as audience familiarity with the material often robs a show of its suspense and “gotcha” moments, but director Tim Kniffin and his cast do a grand job of setting and maintaining a mood of great discomfort throughout the show while delivering a few jolts.
McCloud renders a very convincing portrayal of Sheldon’s physical and mental anguish, which is impressive, as the majority of the performance is delivered from a bed. Gannon Graham is the type of performer who can communicate as much with her eyes as most other performers can with 30 pages of dialogue, but Goldman’s script makes it apparent she’s batshit crazy from the get-go. It’s almost as if he made the assumption that since you’d already read the book or seen the movie, why bother wasting time building that up? Let’s get right to the hobbling!
The story’s most famous scene is well handled, but the show’s denouement is missing some of the excitement and energy that film can accomplish with quick-cuts and close-ups.
Lovers of Stephen King’s work and those seeking out (former Parisian horror theater) Grand Guignol-ish entertainment this Halloween season will find Misery more than fits the bill.
‘Misery’ runs through Oct. 30 at Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. Fri–Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $25–$40. Masking is encouraged. 707.763.8920. cinnabartheater.org