Theater

‘Misery’ Loves Box Office: Do We Really Need a Broadway Version of Stephen King’s Classic?

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Writing is rarely easy. But it’s hard to imagine a more nightmarish creative process than that depicted in Stephen King’s psycho-thriller Misery, now playing on Broadway in an adaption by William Goldman. In King’s saga a famous novelist is trapped in a remote farmhouse by an overly enthusiastic fan — one who’d rather kill him than let him leave.

It’s hard to see why this tale, aside from its star-vehicle potential, demanded to be staged.

Bruce Willis stars as romance writer Paul Sheldon, who is “rescued” from a snowy car crash by local weirdo Annie Wilkes (Laurie Metcalf), a Sheldon devotee who “just happened” to be trailing the writer that day. Annie bandages Paul’s broken legs, plies him with painkillers, and announces that he’ll stay with her until the roads reopen. But that might be awhile: Annie is obsessed with Paul’s most famous character, Misery Chastain, and wants Paul to rewrite Misery’s life to her specifications — with violent retribution awaiting if he won’t.

Despite Metcalf’s excellently maniacal Annie, the tension here is more discomfort than terror (though the story, if understood as a parable about the sadism inherent in artistic creation, could well induce writer’s block). Emotional cruelty works onstage, but full-throttle fights less so, and it’s hard to see why this tale, aside from its star-vehicle potential, demanded to be staged. Could it be that everyone involved was held hostage to the producers’ balance sheets?

Misery

Adapted by William Goldman

Broadhurst Theatre

235 West 44th Street

212-239-6200, miserybroadway.com