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By William Goldman
Based on the novel by Stephen King

Lakeside Community Theatre

Directed by Keegan Arnold
Assistant Director/Dramaturg – Aaron J. Schultz
Stage Manager – Kyley Sanchez
Sound Design – Sydney Tripp
Set & Lighting Design – Keegan Arnold
Costume Design – Keegan Arnold & Cast
Prop Design – Steven White, Kyley Sanchez, Donna Arnold, & Keegan Arnold
Special Effects – Steven White
Light/Sound Board Operator – Nat Coe
Running Crew – Kristina Morrow
Set Build Crew – James Suttles, Donna Arnold, Jeff Kyle, Keith Moritz, & Tina Sanchez

Annie Wilkes – Kiani Stone
Paul Sheldon – David J. Wallis
Sheriff Buster – Shane Alexander Morgan

Reviewed Performance: 2/25/2023

Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The first show I had the pleasure of seeing at Lakeside Community Theatre was “Alice in Slasherland,” an outrageously enjoyable homage to and parody of horror movies. This last Saturday I experienced a more intimate and visceral form of suspense and terror, courtesy of playwright William Goldman’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel “Misery”, sharp direction and the talent and complete commitment of a first-rate cast. If you like your thrills and chills up close and personal, this is a show you have to see.

Many of you may be familiar with the novel and/or the 1990 film directed by Rob Reiner from a screenplay by William Goldman. I have not read the book, and though I have not seen the entire movie, I have seen film clips and have heard enough cultural references so that I get shivers down my spine when someone says the word ‘sledgehammer.’ The premise of the story is an author’s nightmare. Paul Sheldon (David J. Wallis) is a famous writer, known particularly for a series of historical fiction novels featuring the character Misery Chastain. Coming back from the secluded retreat where he writes his stories, Paul crashes his car during a snowstorm, breaking both of his legs. He is pulled from the wreckage by Annie Wilkes (Kiani Stone), a former nurse and, it just so happens, Paul’s ‘number one fan.’ She takes him to her secluded house and cares for him. Annie is also crazy.

Annie finds out that Paul has killed off Misery, her all-time favorite character, in his latest book. Using a combination of flattery, drugs, and physical intimidation, she imprisons Paul in her house until he writes another Misery novel. She conceals his presence from the outside world, telling the local sheriff, Buster (Shane Alexander Morgan), who is searching for Paul, that she hasn’t seen him but will keep an eye out. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game as Annie begins to come totally unhinged and Paul tries desperately to escape. Amplifying the desperation Paul and the audience experience is that we are looking through the walls and into the windows of Annie’s house and witnessing everything firsthand.

Keegan Arnold designed the set, and it encompasses the entirety of the black box theatre . The main focus is the bedroom where the injured author is imprisoned. Around it is the rest of the house. Scattered on the surface and edges of the walls are torn pages of books. Could it represent the literary fantasy that Annie lives in and fights to preserve, or is it the manuscript that Paul is writing under duress that he is frantically hoping might set him free? Surrounding all of this is the audience. The lighting design, also by Kegan Arnold, gives an appropriate sense of foreboding to the proceedings. There are times when the blackouts facilitating scene changes take a bit long and threaten to interrupt the pace, but the atmosphere of dread is artfully maintained by the music and sound design work of Sydney Tripp.

Director Keegan Arnold, while he is not afraid of pauses to heighten suspense, keeps the pace crisp and quick. The cast, particularly the two lead actors, are more than up to the task of bringing all of this to life. David J. Wallis plays Paul Sheldon and makes the character’s pain and disorientation real and believable, especially when he is trying to maneuver with his damaged legs. Mr. Wallis clearly portrays the character’s desperation as he buys time typing the manuscript while making plans to escape, and we share in his frustration when those plans are thwarted by Annie. Yet during his captivity, Paul’s creative juices begin to flow again, and Annie becomes an unexpected muse, one that will inspire and haunt him the rest of his life, and Mr. Wallis skillfully shows us the wonder and horror of that reality.

The movie gave us Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes, but Lakeside Community Theatre gives us Kiani Stone, and she is terrifyingly wonderful. Her Annie is all smiles and romance, gushing her praises of the Misery books like a star-struck schoolgirl, then slowly transforming into a raging oppressor, willing to do anything to protect the fantasy world she has constructed around Paul’s novels. Ms. Stone gives herself over completely to the character, and though we may feel sorry for the mental instability that brought Annie to such extremes, we fear her, and dread the possibility that she may turn her gaze from Paul to us. It is a scary and fearless performance.

As the dogged sheriff Buster searching for Paul, Shane Alexander Morgan makes the most of a small but important role. Mr. Morgan gives the part an amiable, approachable feel, and he credibly shows us Buster’s growing suspicion that something is not right in the Annie Wilkes house.

Fans of the book and the movie should find this production thrilling and satisfying. And for those unfamiliar with the source material and with a taste for the suspenseful, I can guarantee a good time will be had. Head to Lakeside Community and spend some time with Paul and Annie and Buster, and you may find yourself becoming, like Annie, a fanatical fan of “Misery.”

Don’t forget to bring your own sledgehammer.

Presented by Lakeside Community Theatre
March 3 – 11, 2023
March 3, 4, & 10 at 8:00PM
March 11 at 3:00PM
6303 Main St, The Colony, TX 75056
For tickets and more information call 214-801-4869
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