Small Ensemble Cast Bring Stephen King’s Psycho Thriller to Life at Queen Street Playhouse
By: Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
Footlight Players offer up a pre-cursor to the Halloween season as they turn in a enthralling and nightmarish rendition of ‘Misery’. Based on Stephen King’s 1987 best-selling psychological horror thriller novel and the smash 1990 box office film adaptation starring Kathy Bates and James Caan, ‘Misery’ centers around an obsessive fan holding her favorite author hostage until he decides to bring her beloved character back to life.
Travelling home from Colorado to New York, Victorian romance novelist Paul Sheldon’s journey gets derailed due to a blizzard causing him to have an accident resulting in notable injuries. Enter Paul’s apparent savior Annie Wilkes, who just happens to be his number one fan. Waking up in Annie’s remote home, Paul discovers he’s bed-ridden with broken legs and a dislocated shoulder.
With a promise to nurse him back to health until proper medical attendees can make their way to her home, Paul allows Annie to read his more modern-day manuscript, where all hell breaks loose after Annie discovers Paul has a way with ‘F’ bombs.
Upon securing a copy of his latest book in the ‘Misery’ series, Annie discovers her beloved Misery dies, sending Annie over the edge. Not happy her favorite character meets her demise, Annie begins a dark cat and mouse game forcing Paul to edit his text, even going as far as inflicting additional pain on her captive target.
For those who recall Bates on screen performance, the acclaimed actress set the bar high, winning an Oscar for her portrayal. Voted best actress by Charleston City Paper over the past two years, Madelyn Knight does equal justice in the role of Annie. Knight embodies all the angst and frenzied emotion required to fill her shoes. Knight does a nice job of going from sympathetic to full on rage in the same scene.
Kyle Barnette is one of Charleston’s most versatile actors, and ideally cast as Paul. As co-founder of What If Productions and newly named Footlight Artistic Director Barnette knows his way around a stage. Despite lying in bed for half of the production, Barnette throws himself into the character, utilizing a lot of intensity to bring Paul’s pain and frustration to the forefront.
Patrons familiar with King’s novel and the movie know how the storyline evolves. ‘Misery’ on stage is a bit more in your face distraught. For a live production to work the two principal actors must possess a certain chemistry. Knight and Barnette easily bring out the best in each other, as well as their physicality.
In a supporting role, New York native Steve Tarnow deserves an ‘attaboy’ for wearing the badge of Sheriff Buster. Tarnow does a good job of depicting the local authority as both amiable yet suspecting.
Kudos to Jackson Clark Haywood for assembling this small yet incredible ensemble cast in his Footlight Players directorial debut. A seasoned actor and director Haywood apparently as a flair for dark drama, and under his direction the entire crew brought this spectacular story to life. Equal praise goes to Julia Mimo for her awesome set design, establishing a rustic cabin on a revolving stage to allow for easy transition from bedroom and kitchen scenes. Freakin’ amazing!
‘Misery’ is a deranged tale with Footlight Players providing over two hours of on the edge of your seat entertainment. Their adaptation is wonderful and perhaps meant for a more mature open-minded audience. However, it is perfect heading into the ghoulish Halloween season. Weekend performances run through Sunday October 23rd at Queen Street Playhouse.
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