PICK! ASR Theater ~~ Cinnabar Theater’s Outrageous “Misery”

By Barry Willis

A delightfully unexpected update to Stephen King’s novel—and the 1990 movie of the same name, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan—Cinnabar’s production mines the humor that’s long lain fallow in William Goldman’s adaptation.

As Annie Wilkes, North Bay theater veteran Mary Gannon Graham proves she’s lost nothing in the four-plus years she’s been away from the stage. Her last appearance was in Cinderella at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, and she brings plenty of pent-up energy to the part of an obsessed literary fan who rescues her favorite novelist from an auto accident that’s broken both his legs and done some serious damage to one shoulder.

… “Misery” is perfectly creepy, and abundantly appropriate for the Halloween season…

Edward McCloud has the difficult role of the mostly-bedridden Paul Sheldon, who regains consciousness in a bedroom in Annie’s isolated farm house. He’s thankful to be alive but soon learns that his rescuer has an agenda for him that he probably can’t fulfill. The author of many “Misery” books depicting the life of a fictional 19th-century heroine named Misery Chastain, Sheldon’s reached the end of the series, and carries the manuscript for the final installment with him.

Mary Gannon Graham as Annie Wilkes. Photography by Victoria Von Thal

It’s a discovery of enormous excitement for Annie, and also a cause of enormous dismay when she reads ahead and discovers that Misery will meet her ultimate end. This cannot do—she’s the self-proclaimed #1 fan of both the author and his most famous character—and to thwart it, she embarks on a program of limited physical rehabilitation and enforced rewriting for Paul, who’s cut off from all communication with the outside world.

It’s mid-winter, the surrounding countryside is buried in snow, and no one knows where he is. The good-natured local sheriff (Kellie Donnelly) comes around a couple of times, asking Annie some basic questions, and goes away believing that she knows nothing. McCloud effectively conveys Sheldon’s pain and anxiety. It’s actually excruciating to see him fall out of bed and try his best to find an escape.

Paul Sheldon (Edward McCloud) recovers in bed. Photo by Victoria Von Thal

Graham rides an emotional roller-coaster as the obsessed Annie, overjoyed to have rescued her favorite author, and honored to be caring for him, but interpreting the literary rescue of Misery as a mandate from heaven. She’ll do whatever it takes to get Paul to do her bidding. Her obsessions run in multiple directions, as do her emotional reactions and haphazard-but-somehow-logical manipulations of Paul. Her scenes are comedic riots.

Director Tim Kniffin has found new treasures in this timeless tale, and gets the absolute most from his three-actor cast. Set designer Brian Watson’s farmhouse works perfectly as the hidden locale where truly horrific and hilarious shenanigans take place, enhanced by Wayne Hovey’s moody lighting.

Misery is perfectly creepy, and abundantly appropriate for the Halloween season.


ASR NorCal Executive Editor Barry Willis is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and president of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: barry.m.willis@gmail.com


Written byStephen King, adapted by William Goldman
Directed byTim Kniffin
Producing CompanyCinnabar Theater
Production DatesThrough Oct 30th
Production Address3333 Petaluma Blvd North
Petaluma, CA 94952
Telephone (707) 763-8920
Tickets$25 – $40
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?YES!