by Paul Atreides
I am not one to critique a manuscript when I review it unless it’s an original, new work.
In the case of Misery, William Goldman adapted the Stephen King novel to the screen. He’s adapted other works to the screen, most notably All the President’s Men, and won an Oscar for the effort.
One of the toughest things to do–and do successfully–is to adapt a well-known, well-received book and film to the stage. That’s what Goldman has attempted here by adapting his own screenplay for the stage.
His stage adaptation for Misery, now playing on the Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) mainstage, contains numerous very short scenes to move the action forward in time and poses challenges in the theatre. The playwright has let them down, yet director Walter Niejadlik does his best with the given material.
The script doesn’t provide an opportunity for the actors to establish and seal emotions before moving on. Gillen Brey must switch rapidly from Annie Wilkes’ happy “Number One Fan” and careful caretaker to demanding jailer and attempted murderer. The result is that much of Brey’s portrayal comes out on the same level. There’s no time for the menacing macabre to develop through the scenes.
Heath Robertson, as novelist Paul Sheldon, has it much easier: Invalid to the gracious patient to frightened invalid, and he can make that transformation across the 90-minute production. But given the time lapse from start to finish, Paul has issues, as well. A dislocated shoulder popped back in place before the action of the play begins, putting him in an arm sling for months on end. After Annie says Paul’s legs are getting stronger every day; he never once attempts to stand.
The set, designed by Ron Lindblom and dressed by Michael Blair, is positively gorgeous. Small details of the Wilkes rural farmhouse are everywhere, from the clapboard exterior to the knickknacks on tables and pictures stashed on shelves.
Ginny Adams’ lighting is excellent in more ways than simply adding atmosphere. During preshow, before the play starts, the sound and flickering of television wade onto the stage as Robertson lie comatose on the bed. Then, Adams takes the special effects up a level with a fire in a wastebasket, smoke and flame included. (Not to worry, it’s all an ingenious illusion.)
As Paul sits working on the manuscript Annie has demanded, the sound of his typing is overridden by sound effects, then back to life to indicate the passage of time. The two don’t segue smoothly. The issue with sound design stems from a line of dialogue describing all the snow still covering the ground and roads after there has been quite a storm and the sound FX brought a deluge of rain. Again, we probably have to blame the playwright.
Even if you’re a purist, this can still be a satisfying and fun Halloween treat for Misery film fans because the play stays loyal to the screen version.
When: 8 p.m. Friday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through November 6
2 p.m. Saturday, October 28
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Mainstage, 3920 Schiff Drive
Tickets: $30 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Grade: *** Satisfying
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Walter Niejadlik; Asst. Director: Mark Hooker; Set Design: Ron Lindblom; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Sound: Lisa Tollefson; Stage Manager: Jim Braun