Saturday, October 24, 2015

ON BROADWAY: Halloween Week Begins with 'Misery' starring Bruce Willis & Laurie Metcalf

Halloween is in full swing here in NYC and I like to take full advantage. Scary movies are always a win any time of year, as are scary TV shows (hey, The Walking Dead) but what better time to see a scary Broadway show then right now?

OK, so Misery is a play adaptation of a scary movie. Still. I worship at the altar of Stephen King so getting tickets to this was a no brainer. (Seriously, he's ruined most other authors for me because no one can measure up, but don't get it twisted -- I'm no Annie Wilkes. Ha ha.) Last night was the show's second official preview (read: before the show has technically opened) so not many details have even been released yet! That's how exclusive your girl is. #hairflip

So the real question you're asking yourself here is, if you're in New York City between now and February (when the show will be ending its limited run), should you go see Misery? Let me help answer that for on, Broadway lovers.

First up, I think no one in the theater walked in to this show without seeing the iconic movie from 1990, starring Kathy Bates (who won an Oscar for her role) and James Caan. (If you haven't seen it, you have homework -- it's great.) The Broadway version is quite faithful to its source material and without giving too much away, there are key scenes in the build up to the show's climax that the crowd was clearly expecting (and got). 

The show is set in 1987 (the year I was born!) and basically involves two characters: Bruce Willis, as author Paul Sheldon, and Laurie Metcalf, as Annie Wilkes. Sheldon is writing his latest novel in a small hotel in snowy Colorado not far from Wilkes's small cabin home and after getting into a potential deadly car crash that almost costs him his life, Wilkes -- a former nurse -- rescues him and begins nursing him back to health in her own home. She quickly reveals that she's a downright obsessive "fan" of Sheldon's, particularly of his Misery Chastain book series. 

Basically, she takes fangirling to a whole other, deadly level.

By keeping Sheldon locked away from the world and utterly reliant on her alone, Wilkes coerces Sheldon to continue writing the next chapter of the book series for her own selfish amusement, growing increasingly violent and manipulative toward Sheldon to force him to comply.

The set itself was an achievement, brilliantly designed with four different scenes set up on a spinning Lazy Susan like round table -- Annie's front porch (pictured in my photo above), her kitchen, her living room/staircase, and the room she locks Sheldon in. Herein also lied where some sticky moments happened in the preview performance I saw with late entrances by actors who have to change costume -- kinks that will inevitably be worked out with time.

Metcalf was utterly transfixing in her role, somehow managing to make sociopath Annie at times believably awkward, charmingly sweet, and totally terrifying. The comedic elements weren't too much of a surprise considering her roles on TV's Rosanne and The Big Bang Theory and while I do feel the show was much funnier and lighter than the film, the scarier parts were still legitimately scary. She played the dichotomy well and I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up nominated for a Tony Award for her performance.

I can't say the same for Bruce Willis however. I walked into the performance with a blank slate of expectation but his characterization of Paul Sheldon felt far too stiff and right off the page (pun not intended). Because of this, you felt less sorry for him when Annie acts so violently toward him. There were also two key "stunt" moments in the buildup of the storyline that were totally whiffed by Willis (one involving a match, another involving a typewriter -- no spoilers). To be totally fair, it was only the second preview night, and I'm sure once the actors warm up in their roles, these problems will cease to exist, but it was still disappointing.

That being said, the gruesome scenes still had serious impact. Much of the crowd reaction could be attributed to, like I said, most folks having seen the iconic film, creating a palpable tension of knowing the horrific things that will happen when key props are introduced (like, say, a sledgehammer -- or in the words of Fifth Harmony, a sledge-hamma). The groans and gasps were loud.

Overall, the show seems very promising. Horror is a genre that I wish was explored more in the Broadway medium and perhaps this will open the genre up to more in the future (I hear American Psycho is on dock and I can't wait). I'd say it's worth seeing if you loved the film or novel, or simply because Metcalf is incredible as Annie and has earned a whole new slew of respect for her portrayal. But it's definitely not for the kids -- or the squeamish.

Happy Halloween Week to you all! Love, your #1 fan...

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