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SRT Stages Suspenseful Stephen King Classic

While Misery has its moments of dark comedy SRT’s latest production definitely falls squarely into the category of psychological/horror thriller.

A departure from his supernatural/fantasy stories, King’s 1987 Misery: A Novel centered around a self-absorbed best-selling writer-protagonist and an obsessed fan antagonist who turns out to have the terrorizing capacity of an evil Energizer Bunny.

Although the stage adaption by William Goodman slightly softens the characterization of the villain (she is not necessarily a serial killer and her arsenal is short a few of the power tool torture implements that King so graphically depicted), the close proximity of the action to the audience, especially considering the SRT East Sonora Theatre seating layout, makes for an altogether chilling audience experience for the duration of the 90-minute intermissionless show.

SRT Artistic Director Jerry Lee stars as the self-impressed romance series novelist Paul Sheldon, who, tired of being known for the exploits of his Misery Chastain heroine, has just literally written her off by penning her demise in a final installment that is just about to hit bookshelves. He has career plans to depart into a whole new direction and has just completed a new manuscript that he thinks will take him there.

The story gets underway shortly after he leaves his fancy Rocky Mountain High accommodations for a meeting with his agent. He ascends on his charted route but in rapidly developing white-out blizzard conditions, he crashes into a snowdrift and suffers injuries that render him unconscious.

Paul awakes on an IV-drip in a bedroom-turned-makeshift hospital suite to meet his rescuer Annie Wilkes, a former nurse. After proclaiming herself as his “number one fan,” she recounts how she pried open his sports car, recovered him and his briefcase, and piloted them into her home.

Pumped full of painkillers, he sees he has suffered two broken legs that she has expertly set and a dislocated shoulder that she rather ruthlessly snaps back into position. As she prattles on about news tidbits relating to him and why Misery is her favorite story heroine it begins to dawn on him just how obsessed she is although he initially finds it charming.

SRT veteran Laurie Strawn plays Annie with a creepy wistfulness tinged with a sinister side that begins to scarily emerge once she reads the new manuscript in Paul’s briefcase. Things really ramp up after she receives her copy of the final Misery book and reads how Paul killed off her favorite character. She executes on her plans for retribution as Buster, a local deputy played by SRT’s Kevin Heath, begins a missing person search for Paul. From there the events become even more suspenseful and chilling, culminating in murder.

Performances of Misery at SRT’s East Sonora Theatre on Mono Way run through Sept. 24 with SRT’s Brenda O’Brien taking over the role of Annie in mid-September, Evening shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.  Matinees begin at 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and noon on Wednesday. If it was a movie this production would carry an R-rating for strong language, violence, disturbing images, and mature themes. For more info and tickets, go to https://www.sierrarep.org Check out our Theatre section here.

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