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Misery does love company

Rozin Abbas | Interrobang | Lifestyles | March 9th, 2009

For three weeks the Grand Theatre showcased its adaptation of Stephen King's Misery, a best-selling novel.

Misery was turned into a hit movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1990 and Simon Moore adapted it into a play in 1992. While diehard King fans will know Misery like the back of their hands, let me dabble in the plot a little bit for those who have not seen it.

Misery is a story about a successful romance novelist by the name of Paul Sheldon and his horrific venture with his “number one fan.”

Paul Sheldon, after completing what he deems his best novel ever, is driving back intoxicated from his favourite writing spot - Hotel Boulderado in Colorado - when he swerves off the road and crashes. Coincidentally Paul is saved by Annie, a nurse, who constantly claims to be his “number one fan.” Annie, instead of taking Paul to a hospital, takes him back to her home where she takes care of him.

But when Annie finds out Paul has killed off Misery, a heroine in Paul's famous books, her dark and psychopathic tendencies show as she instills herself into Paul's creativity forcing him through outrageous tactics to remain captive in her home and bring Misery back to life.

The challenge presented was to somehow give a new fresh feel to a tale that many have experienced; surprisingly, this was achieved through an excellent, but sometimes misleading, acting and a stellar setting.

Karen Skidmore, who played Annie the nurse, did a phenomenal job of mixing humour and psychosis. From her quirky pig noises while wobbling her breasts to random bursts of torture she performed on Paul, Skidmore provided an unpredictability that was quite refreshing and needed.

While Skidmore did an excellent job, one could not help the constant humour portrayed by Skidmore's character, Annie, dulled the suspense and thriller portion of the play. When Annie went into frenzies at times, the crowd was laughing when that was not the emotion meant to be instilled.

Geoffrey Whynot played novelist Paul Sheldon in Misery. Whynot put on a stellar performance by portraying an incredibly drugged up yet sarcastic Paul who always provoked the worst in Annie. Whynot perfectly displayed all the emotions he attempted to deliver but, at times, was misconstrued due to Skidmore's eccentric character.

The miscommunication of specific emotions was a slight problem in the play. A specific portion that is continually replaying in my mind is when Paul had his foot cut off. While I sat there in a semi-state of shock, several people in the audience were either tearing with laughter or cringing in horror. It was essentially a big mixed bag. This was a trend throughout the play.

Director D. Michael Dobbin noted “that any production of this work faces the challenge of walking a tightrope between laughter and nausea.” Sure enough, the reception was - and will be - very different for some.

While the acting was extremely good but at times misleading, the setting was absolutely astonishing. If there was any single portion of this play that stood out, it was the setting. As the curtains pulled apart after Paul's speech, one was presented with a small house that rotated to reveal other portions of it.

Also having the entire play take place almost exclusively in a single room of the house created a claustrophobic feeling. Furthermore, the house itself was not very large, but it gave the character Paul very little space to work with; this allowed for suspenseful scenes. For example, when Paul had his wheelchair caught around a corner or when he attempted to hide his drugs with limited space while you could hear Annie pursuing in the background.

A stunning part of the house was its ability to rotate. As Paul ventured through the petite house in his wheelchair, the house began to rotate with him giving the actors more scenarios to work with than just a single room.

The stage was reminiscent of going over to grandma's house with old school appliances in the kitchen, no modern technology, petite rooms, and so forth. The result is giving Annie, who progressively becomes more menacing, a dash of innocence and enhances the deception that she may be a decent person.

The Grand Theatre's performance of Misery was on stage until March 7.
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