Was the new stage version of “Misery,” which stars Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf, always intended to be played up for laughs, or did it accidentally turn into a parody of Stephen King’s 1987 thriller novel?
“Misery” is best-known for the 1990 film version with James Caan and Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for her disturbing performance as the deranged “No. 1 fan” of a best-selling pulp romance writer.
William Goldman, who wrote the screenplay, also penned the stage adaptation. Although the number of characters and locations has been reduced, the story remains the same.
Paul Sheldon wakes up in Annie Wilkes’ Colorado home to learn that his car flipped over during a snowstorm. He is lying in bed in pain, with fractured legs and a dislocated shoulder.
After Annie learns that Paul has killed off Misery, her favorite character, in the latest installment of the book series, she buys him a typewriter and forces him to start an all-new manuscript where he can bring Misery back to life, adding that she has not told anyone that he is alive and that he is completely dependent on her for survival.
In the infamous “hobbling” scene, with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” playing in the background, Annie ties Paul to the bed and smashes his ankles with a sledgehammer.
Whereas Rob Reiner’s film was chilling, the 90-minute Broadway production (directed without focus by Will Frears), comes off as a psycho version of “The Odd Couple,” with audience members laughing throughout at Annie’s apparent insanity.
Those who don’t see the humor are likely to find it a pointless star vehicle.
Metcalf is big, loud and over-the-top as Annie. On the other hand, the gruff-looking Willis displays little energy or presence, which easily allows Metcalf to overtake the show.
If you go: “Misery” plays an open run at the Broadhurst Theatre. 235 W. 44th St., miserbroadway.com.
Five Stephen King stories we’d like to see (back) on Broadway
1. ‘Carrie’ It was already made into a musical which notoriously flopped, but maybe people would take it seriously as a drama.
2. ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’ Retitled “The Shawshank Redemption” for the 1994 film, it has already been performed onstage in the U.K.
3. ‘The Shining’ King originally intended for the story to be a play. However, it may be more fun to see this done as a wild musical parody.
4. ‘Under the Dome’ How about an environmental production in which the entire audience is placed under the dome?
5. ‘Children of the Corn’ Who doesn’t love seeing kids onstage?