Publisher: Elizabeth Hurd

Suspense and Terror Abound in “Misery” Showing at 3rd Act Theatre

Paige Alyce Cain as Annie Wilkes. Photo courtesy of April Porterfield

“Misery” is one of Stephen King’s most frightening stories, at least for other authors.  The 1987 novel was made into a very successful film in 1990 starring Kathy Bates and James Caan.  The story centers around a devoted fan of famous author Paul Sheldon.  Sheldon has written an entire series about a character named Misery Chastain.  Our heroine, Annie Wilkes, a resident of a small Colorado town has devoured this series of books avidly.  Interestingly, the author often visits the area, as he finds the isolated Colorado town inspirational encouraging him to write. 

On a cold winter day, Paul Sheldon has left the cabin where he writes to run an errand.  Annie Wilkes has made a quick trip to the store, because she knows that bad weather is coming shortly.  Paul Sheldon is not aware of the impending storm and soon gets into trouble.  He is injured in a one-car accident and fortuitously rescued by Annie Wilkes.  The roads are closing quickly and he cannot be taken to a hospital, so Annie Wilkes takes him back to her house where she plans to use her extensive nursing skills to care for him.  As both of his legs are broken and his shoulder is dislocated he will need all of her medical expertise.

We soon realize that Annie is more than just a lonely middle-aged spinster living loveless and lonely.  She is adept at hiding her madness, but it soon begins to reveal itself.  She kidnaps her favorite author, and while she takes good care of him physically, she has also made him her prisoner.  She quickly moves from a lover of his books to a lover of him.  A sick love.  She is unhappy with how the ‘Misery’ series has ended and makes him rewrite the final book.  She keeps him locked in his room and eventually confesses that she lied about calling his agent to convey that he was safe and sound. 

As the play progresses she becomes more obsessed with him and he becomes more obsessed with escape.  She reveals a future together as a chilling horrific nightmare made all the more disturbing with her very rational discussions with Sheriff Buster who drops by in his investigation into the missing author whose abandoned car has been found.  Paul Sheldon is presumed dead and it is likely that no one is looking for him. 

Craig Pruitt as Paul Sheldon with Paige Alyce Cain as Annie Wilkes. Photo courtesy of April Porterfield.

This story is told by author Stephen King, the master of horror stories and the play by William Goldman is based on King’s book.  The production is directed by Christine Jolly, Artistic Director of 3rd Act Theatre and original founding member.  Peter Fischaber is Fight Director and Jacey Nichole is Stage Manager.  Don Taylor constructs the conveniently organized set and Payton Dickerson designs the costumes with Brittany Atkins on Props and set design.  Caprice Sorg, Dramaturg, provides excellent background information for the actors.  Jolly and Nichole are responsible for the sound design and the lighting is from Mikie Gilmore.

Unfortunately some glitches appear, particularly in the first act with the lighting.  This makes it harder to see the expressions of impending madness on the countenance of Annie Wilkes, the desperation from Paul Sheldon and the confusion of Sheriff Buster.  Hopefully these glitches are being resolved.

The small cast bears a large responsibility in creating the suspense, terror and hopelessness the story requires, but they do a marvelous job.  Paul Sheldon is portrayed by Craig Pruitt, Annie Wilkes by Paige Alyce Cain and Sheriff Buster by Matthew Moreillon.  Christine Jolly has directed the actors to deliver an intensity of emotion expressing fear, love, frustration and hopelessness that increases the ghastly and stifling situation that encompasses them. 

In spite of the lighting difficulty the actors are superb in surmounting the obstacle of low light and magnified their expression so that the audience could be drawn into the gruesome love story.  Paige Alyce Cain is particularly brilliant at revealing her descent into unbelievable unreality and desperate desire.  Her occasional flashes of reason are all the more telling when that brief flash of shock at her own daring momentarily appears.  Craig Pruitt’s interpretation has less depth, but is still quite powerful, as he realizes his powerlessness.  Matthew Moreillon brings to the table a typical sheriff, who is quite certain that they will be fortunate to find Paul Sheldon’s body by spring, but he is thinking and his realization that Annie Wilkes may be more involved that previously thought is strongly portrayed.

Paige Alyce Cain as Annie Wilkes and Michael Moreillon as Sheriff Buster. Photo courtesy of April Porterfield

All in all, “Misery” is a show displaying the intense misery of artistic development in the frustrated writer, creative development in the unrequited lover and interesting human behavior in the unusual captivity.  It is well worth the evening—an evening that cannot be comfortable because of the subject but is in fact quite comforting that the audience can rise and go home fearlessly.

“Misery” is showing at 3rd Act Theatre in the Shoppes at Northpark Mall August 4 through August 20, 2023.  Northpark Mall is located at the corner of 122nd  and North May, 12040 N. May Avenue.  For tickets and information visit or call at (405)593-8093.  “Misery” is guaranteed to be exciting and suspenseful sending chills down the spine, but certainly not miserable!  The formidable acting skills of the three cast members are impressive, especially from the leading lady of the piece as Paige Alyce Cain does great justice to the imagination of Stephen King with her expressive abilities.  Don’t miss it!