One of my husband's favorite movies is Misery, based on Stephen King's novel andstarring Kathy Bates as crazed fan Annie Wilkes. It was the movie that made her a star and she is unforgettable in that role.
When I heard that they were working on a Broadway adaptation of Misery, I thought that no one could be so good in that iconic role and that maybe it wasn't a smart idea. Elizabeth Marvel, a Broadway vet, was slated to play Annie Wilkes, and I thought that was a great choice. Unfortunately, she had to drop out, but Laurie Metcalf took on the role and was brilliant.
Many people know Metcalf from her role as Roseanne's sister Jackie in TV's groundbreaking sitcom Roseanne. I have seen her on Broadway and know how good she is on the stage, and I knew she'd be terrific. I also loved her on the HBO comedy Getting On, where she played a tightly-wound doctor in a long-term care ward of a hospital. How she hasn't gotten an Emmy for that is a head-scratcher.
Metcalf astounds as writer Paul Sheldon's "number one fan". Sheldon writes her favorite series of books, historical romances about a strong female character named Misery. The show opens with Sheldon incapacitated by a serious car accident, with two broken legs, waking up in a bed in nurse Annie Wilkes home.
At first we think Annie is just a good Samaritan, caring for the injured man. Then we come to realize that she is little bit crazy and maybe she ran him off the road herself. Paul's newest Misery book is publishing soon, and Annie is so excited to read it....until she does.
Paul kills off Misery in the latest book and that sets Annie off the edge of sanity. She holds Paul hostage, and forces him to write a new Misery book, one where Misery lives happily every after.
A basically two-person show requires that both actors be on the same page, and unfortunately, Metcalf is much stronger in her role than Bruce Willis is in his. To be fair, he spends most of the show in bed, and this is his Broadway debut, so that plays into it. But Laurie Metcalf is just on another plane here. She shows us how Annie descends into madness and we almost feel compassionate towards her.
Misery ended its run this past week, and while I wouldn't have recommended it wholeheartedly, I did really enjoy Laurie Metcalf's performance and was glad I saw it.