Based on the 1987 psychological horror novel by bestselling American author Stephen King, “Misery” tells the story of a famous author taken prisoner by a crazed fan after being saved by her from a debilitating accident. Presented by d2 productions montréal theatre company under the direction of Dale Hayes, this exquisitely acted, darkly humorous thriller plays at the MainLine Theatre until November 13th, 2016.
Acclaimed author Paul Sheldon (Max Laferriere) wakes up wounded on an unfamiliar bed near rural Silver Creek, Colorado, to excruciating pain. Having just narrowly survived a near-fatal automobile accident in the snowstorm, his legs are bandaged to makeshift splints, shattered from the tragic incident of mere days ago. To his luck (or, arguably, great misfortune) he’s been rescued from the car crash by Annie Wilkes (Caroline Fournier), a former nurse who has transported him to the guest bedroom of her remote home and has taken on the duty of tending to his medical recovery.
Catered to with questionable meals and codeine-based painkillers, the physically incapacitated but mentally alert Paul immediately learns that his new caregiver is – all too coincidentally – his self-proclaimed biggest fan. An avid reader of his extensive body of literary work, Annie is particularly obsessed with Misery Chastain, a fictional character featured in an eight-part series of his popular Victorian-era romance novels. Her infatuation eventually translates to Paul himself, whose requests of a simple phone call to his family and a transfer to a proper hospital are continuously met with eerie dismissal, leading him to the nightmarish notion that he is likely being held hostage by the most dangerous of minds.
Quickly catching on to Annie’s manipulative ways and wildly unstable psyche, Paul begins to plot out an escape from her reins, but, wheelchair-bound as he is, his multiple attempts at a jailbreak are frustratingly unsuccessful. When she discovers that Misery has been killed off in his latest novel, she becomes irate, and what follows is a sinister sequence of merciless, abusive acts that force the author to write a new book that brings her beloved character back to life.
Misery is, in the most commending of ways, blood-tingling from the get-go (truly, it’s one of the most powerful productions on the attention-holding standard that we’ve seen). Tapping into primal fears and terrors, you can’t not be held captive by its simple but stirring storyline of a man’s fight to stay alive in the most menacing of circumstances. A testament perhaps to Stephen King’s overlooked sensibilities and understanding of horror elements, Misery champions the importance of an engaging plot and character – it’s almost as if one is frightened to look away – and the cinematic flow and feel to it effortlessly engages our every sense.
(A word of warning: while the play refrains from overtly graphic depictions and displays of extreme violence, it exposes aspects of physical, emotional, and mental torture and suffering that may be distressing to some theatregoers.)
What fundamentally solidifies the excellence of this stage adaptation, however, are Max Laferriere’s and Caroline Fournier’s outstanding performances as the tormented literary genius and the demented serial killer, respectively. In full consideration of the demands of his unforgiving role, Laferriere’s heartbreakingly agonizing portrayal of Paul Sheldon is remarkably credible and moving. Fournier is a worthy opposing force in her own right, delivering the essential element of looming threat that the figure of Annie Wilkes categorically calls for.
Montreal company d2 productions here once agains fulfills its mandate of presenting accessible, high quality English-language theatre to local audiences – Misery being the best to date among those that we have had the sincere privilege of having experienced in recent years. With the skillfull execution of a compelling script, it facilely secures a distinction as one of our of most cherished shows of the season. Consider us “number one fans” de facto – but wholesome, loving ones at that.
Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Editor-in-Chief Camila Fitzgibbon
MISERY presented by d2 productions montréal ends its run at the MainLine Theatre (3997 Blvd. Saint-Laurent) on Sunday, November 13th, 2016. Tickets are $12-15 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 514-849-3378.