BWW Reviews: Stage Door, Inc's MISERY is Perfectly Discomforting and Fun

BWW Reviews: Stage Door, Inc's MISERY is Perfectly Discomforting and FunContinuing their season of murder, madness, and mayhem, Stage Door, Inc. is presenting Simon Moore's theatrical adaptation of MISERY, based on the thrilling novel by Stephen King. The tense and disturbing play tells the story of the famed novelist of the Misery Chastain series, Paul Sheldon, being nursed back to health by his self-proclaimed "number one fan," Annie Wilkes. Annie is beside herself with joy in getting the opportunity to use her nursing skills to help the author. When she reads his manuscript for his new novel, her mental instability begins to rear its ugly head. She becomes enraged with him for using so much profanity and violence and makes him burn the draft. Things get worse for Paul when Annie reads Misery's Child and discovers that he ended the series with Misery's death during childbirth. She gifts him with an antique typewriter and demands that he write a new novel, called Misery's Return. To ensure that he writes the novel, she tortures him physically and mentally. Simon Moore's unnerving adaptation is more faithful to the original novel than the film starring James Caan and Kathy Bates; yet, fans of the film will find plenty to enjoy in the play.

Anytime a community theatre decides to mount a two person show, I am instantly hesitant to see the production. Relying on two amateur actors who typically don't have the time to methodically rehearse for months to carry a show is a tall order. Add in the fact that one of those actors must be bed-ridden for almost the whole first act, and you've got a recipe for disaster. However, Marc Anthony Glover and his talented cast are doing brilliant things with the script and conveying the story. Marc Anthony Glover's direction is frantically paced, ensuring that psychological tension develops quickly and keeps audiences pristinely discomforted throughout the entire production. He has coached his cast to expertly capture the audience's attention and cling to their every word in every scene, joyfully watching the unsettling and horrific plot crescendo to its enthralling climax.

As the protagonist, Tad Howington deftly creates a sympathetic character in his portrayal of Paul Sheldon. The audience roots for his successful escape from the misery inflicted by Annie. Each of Tad Howington's screams of pain killer dependent agony makes us cringe and ache for him. Like him, we are mortified by Annie's terrible bed side manner as she slips into psychotic episodes of pure sadism. Additionally, Tad Howington deserves immense kudos for keeping audiences entertained and engaged for the lengthy time that he spent completely bed-ridden, giving the audience a riveting performance.

Annie Wilkes is brought to gleaming life by Carrie Doss. She handles the extremes of the character with ease, vacillating between sheer happiness and frightening bouts of insanity. Carrie Doss chills audiences with lines and references to her past deeds, such as killing other people, and when she flies off the handle and does unthinkably cruel deeds, like making Paul drink the mop water. Even with Carrie Doss' thrilling performance, I wish I had seen more subtle and smooth transitions between the two extremes of Annie. Sometimes a sound and lighting effect transition Annie from one emotion to the other; yet, it feels like Carrie Doss' emotions flip like a light switch with or without those effects.

Scenic Design by Marc Anthony Glover is truly stunning. Once the curtain rises and the lights come up on the set, the audience is wholly and magically transported to Annie's secluded cabin. Design elements include cleverly cut away walls so that space is defined, but the audience doesn't miss anything. Moreover, the set is fantastically decorated and completely resembles a home. No detail is overlooked and every nook and cranny has some element that tells us who Annie is as a person, especially when we get to see the inside of the bathroom and the inside of her cabinets in the living room.

Marc Anthony Glover's Lighting Design pairs fantastically with the set and the special effects offered for Annie's psychotic breaks are well designed and employed in the show. I was consistently impressed by the use of fading color washes outside of the windows to indicate time of day and the passing of time. Likewise, the stark and uncovered bulbs in Annie's hallway and kitchen were great touches that were used for devastatingly creepy and completely enjoyable effect.

Sound Design by Travis Hamilton is superb. The intimidating and unsettling music played between the scenes ensures that no momentum in the building tension of the show is dropped, keeping the audience in the moment. This is especially helpful during some of the longer scene changes. The sound effect of the heart beating for Annie's psychotic breaks is a nice addition as well.

Kyle Jones' Fight Choreography comes across as a little cheesy by the end of the climatic duel. It starts out very well, but grows to an over-the-top battle that elicits chuckles and small guffaws from the audience when it should be keeping us riveted to the edge of our seats. Furthermore, I couldn't help but feel that the final placement of Annie's body is a bit unfortunate and unflattering. I feel that if she was angled just a little differently that the kicking and flailing of her limbs would be just as effective without putting the actress into a needlessly revealing angle.

Pasadena's Stage Door, Inc. took a risk producing a two person show, but the successfully rose to the occasion. Their presentation of MISERY is a distressing and diabolically fun evening at the theatre. The performances on and off the stage are solid, ensuring that the production is a creepy good time that is sure to entertain.

Stage Door, Inc.'s production of MISERY runs through March 10, 2013. For more information and tickets please visit http://www.stagedoorinc.com or call (832) 582 - 7606.

Photos courtesy of Stage Door, Inc.

high res photos

BWW Reviews: Stage Door, Inc's MISERY is Perfectly Discomforting and Fun
Tad Howington as Paul Sheldon & Carrie Doss as Annie Wilkes.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door, Inc's MISERY is Perfectly Discomforting and Fun
Carrie Doss as Annie Wilkes & Tad Howington as Paul Sheldon.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door, Inc's MISERY is Perfectly Discomforting and Fun
Tad Howington as Paul Sheldon.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door, Inc's MISERY is Perfectly Discomforting and Fun
Carrie Doss as Annie Wilkes & Tad Howington as Paul Sheldon.

BWW Reviews: Stage Door, Inc's MISERY is Perfectly Discomforting and Fun
Carrie Doss as Annie Wilkes & Tad Howington as Paul Sheldon.

high res photos


Related Articles

Houston THEATER Stories | Shows  Like BWW Houston  Follow BWW Houston


From This Author David Clarke

Before you go...