MISERY presented by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Sept. 29. Click here for a synopsis and more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
Cincinnati Playhouse kicks off their 2018-2019 season with a top-notch stage adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. Gasps, groans, and nervous laughter? Check, check, and check. Director Blake Robison delivers edge-of-your-seat thrills with capital “Eeek!”
As savior and sadistic jailer Annie Wilkes, Barbara Chisholm is equal parts funny and scary, but always believable as she ping-pongs between “number one fan” and number one fanatic. David Whalen as injured novelist Paul Sheldon transitions very well from near-helpless prisoner to determined survivor and handles the physical demands of the role very well. Together the two have a great rapport on stage and their adversarial relationship is very engaging to watch unfold (except in those moments you have to look away). Rounding out the cast is Kenneth Early turning in a solid performance as Buster, the local sheriff who questions Annie about the missing Sheldon.
The fourth star of the show is Paul Shortt’s beautiful three-sided set which rotates between living room, bedroom and kitchen throughout both acts. There are also a couple of surprises with the set that were fun and highly effective.
The set decor was amazingly detailed and fit perfectly with Annie’s character. The lighting design by Xavier Pierce adds much to the show’s atmosphere and I enjoyed how the passage of time was handled between scenes. Also adding to the suspense of the piece was the work of sound designer and composer, Matthew M. Nielson. Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet are listed as fight choreographer and special effects coordinator for MISERY. For the most part, the stage combat and effects are highly effective and handled well by the cast.
Costume designer Kathleen Geldard created some great looks for Annie and several of the changes seemed very quick . Great work by the crew on the running of the show and those stealthy set changes as the play continued on the other side of the wall.
Overall, MISERY is a tightly directed, engrossing and suspenseful thriller, elevated by pitch-perfect performances and great eye to detail. Start your Halloween season a month early at the Playhouse.
My rating: 5 out of 5.
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