Review: MISERY Loves Company in This Stage Adaptation of Stephen King's Ultimate Thriller at Jobsite Theater

THIS REAL-LIFE HUSBAND AND WIFE DUO TEAM UP TO BRING TOP-NOTCH PERFORMANCES, AND THE FIRST COMPANY TO PREMIERE WILLIAM GOLDMAN’S ADAPTATION IN THE BAY AREA.

By: Mar. 21, 2023
Review: MISERY Loves Company in This Stage Adaptation of Stephen King's Ultimate Thriller at Jobsite Theater
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"I'm your number-one fan..."- Annie Wilkes

Misery written by the incomparable "Master of Horror" Stephen King was first released via Viking Press on June 8, 1987. The story revolves around the main character, romance novelist Paul Sheldon, and his self-proclaimed number-one fan Annie Wilkes. Paul is seriously injured in a car crash, and Annie being a former nurse discovers Paul and brings him home for rehabilitation. While staying in Annie's home, Paul receives treatment and pain meds and soon discovers he is prisoner and forced to adhere to all of his captor's demands.

One interesting fact about Misery is the idea of its titles double meaning. You see Misery is the name of Paul's centralized character in his most beloved book series, and that Annie herself, as stated by King, is a stand-in for cocaine. Stephen King intentionally set the release of Misery under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, but it was King's identity that was discovered prior to the release.

Misery was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film directed by Rob Reiner starring Kathy Bates and James Cann in 1990, and subsequently was adapted for the stage by William Goldman and starred Laurie Metcalf and Bruce Willis in 2015.

Jobsite Theater is in its element here, and I for one was so happy to see a Company in the Bay Area tackle such a daring script and brilliantly written adaptation.

Jobsite being no stranger to embracing the weird and sometimes far-fetched take this Stephen King classic and makes it their own, with unique staging and musical interludes provided by the exceptionally talented Jeremy Douglass.

At the helm of the beast so to speak is Jobsite Theater's Artistic Director David Jenkins as Paul Sheldon. Primarily bedridden most of the 95-minute performance, David is electric from start to finish. You feel his pain, his anguish, and his sense of urgency all embracing the present unknown circumstances in which his character faces. Having not witnessed his performance power onstage since last season's Doubt, his Paul Sheldon is on par with my favorite performances of his to date. It's always exciting for me to experience his presence when not on the Directing side of the spectrum and for me this is an incredibly strong performance, grounded in a will to survive no matter the cost.

Equally strong is the powerful performance delivered by Summer Bohnenkamp as Annie Wilkes. She is maniacal in her delivery and fear-inducing at every moment. You never know where she is going to go next, and the mystery is a pulse-racing tour de force impossible to turn away from. The moment with the sledgehammer and later the rifle work hand in hand seamlessly and deliver on every level. For me the power is delivered in her non-verbals. Her eyes tell a story we are unsure our hearts are ready to hear, and that makes the mystery, the thrill, the adventure even that more enticing. Summer creates a version of Annie Wilkes unlike anything I have ever seen, one that still shakes me to the core, and humbly I am thankful for the chance to witness such a powerful turn on stage.

As Buster, Josh Goff makes his presence, though brief known. An integral part to the storyline, his Buster is a welcomed relief to the tension building onstage.

Brian Smallheer's Set Design perfectly set the pace for the world in which the character's reside, and the design fits well within the confines of the intimate space of the Shimberg. Jo Averill-Snell's Lighting Design exquisitely evokes each moment-to-moment within the show, with such finesse, it almost becomes a character itself. With Costume Design by Roz Potenza, we find each of our characters submitting to their own reality, and in turn embracing their individuality within the confines of Goldman's play. Music Composition by Jeremy Douglass perfectly evoked the mood of the evening, and helped place the audience in the right frame of mind for the events about to unfold. Fight Direction by Brianna McVaugh allowed for the characters to be safely engaged in moments of trial, and still allowed them to evoke the moments of tension and struggle needed for the story.

With top-notch Direction by Paul Potenza, Jobsite's production of Misery goes off without a hitch. One thing I will say about the Direction, is that the character arcs built between the two leads is damn-near perfection, and something only achieved by the finest of hands. Potenza has established a top-tier cast and the company delivers tenfold. A few minor issues with lighting and patrons causing a ruckus took nothing away from the fantastic evening had by all. Stage Management extraordinaire Jessie Dorsey kept the show moving at an expert pace.

Tickets to Misery are flying out the door faster than Stephen King's latest best-seller. Word on the street is that most of the performances are sold out, with the best availability being Friday, March 24th, which is expected to sell out very soon. Don't get left out in the cold, without a ticket to what is expected to be the hottest ticket in town. So come on down, your "Number-one fan" is waiting to meet your acquaintance. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.strazcenter.org, or www.jobsitetheater.org.

PHOTO CREDIT: STAGE PHOTOGRAPHY OF TAMPA LLC- SPOT




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