Over the past few years, a litany of directors has tried to pull audiences into the literary world of Stephen King. Stories like “Pet Semetary,” “Doctor Sleep,” “Firestarter” and “IT” have all received the silver screen treatment to varying degrees of critical success.
For as haunting as some of those movies can be though, none of them literally take you inside one of King’s terrifying creations quite like the Lakeside Community Theatre’s (LCT) production of “Misery.”
The production physically pulls you into romance novelist Paul Sheldon’s world as he convalesces at the home of superfan Annie Wilkes following a car accident.
“It’s a very intimate production. It’s in a smaller black box theater, and it’s a very immersive production,” “Misery” Director Keegan Arnold said. “When you walk into the space, audiences will actually have to walk through Annie Wilkes house to get to their seats.”
Arnold detailed how he also came up with an immersive way to bring audiences closer to Wilkes by using custom-made newspaper clippings to showcase her personal history. The clippings mark an important element from the famous book and movie that Arnold said are not in his production’s script, an adaptation of the book by William Goldman notably used by the 2015 Broadway play starring Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf.
The production plans to place the clippings, created by the play’s actors and artists, throughout the set and in the lobby in order to give guests a firsthand chance to learn more about the situation Sheldon finds himself in, much like the character does in the film and book.
The inspiration for such a personal experience clearly comes from Arnold’s own appreciation of the theatrical arts as he explained his favorite form of theater is the kind that pulls you into the setting itself.
“I’m hoping we can do a lot of that with this show where it’s not just immersive because it’s so good, it’s immersive because we want to transport you there to that location,” Arnold said.
Arnold’s creative approach to the material points to his own connection with King’s work and his longtime desire to bring “Misery” to the stage.
Arnold said that his first exposure to the story of “Misery” came not through the book or the movie but through a script. He added that the script’s use of King’s story, combined with the creative challenges of such a small cast, fueled his initial enjoyment of the material.
It wouldn’t be until this past summer that Arnold first watched the famed Kathy Bates-starring movie then, and it wasn’t until just before rehearsals that he listened to an audio version of the book.
“I will say I love the movie and the script of the play, but it’s probably maybe 1/10th of the actual nightmare that is the book,” Arnold said, noting how he became drawn to the book’s graphic, brutal depictions. “We’re pulling a lot of inspiration from the book rather than the movie because I just had this very strong connection with sort of the horror elements and the thriller elements of the book. I loved it.”
That inspiration continues in a very practical sense to show some of the transition moments between scenes. The Broadway play calls for a rotating set, something which the LCT production can’t accommodate. As a result, Arnold’s direction will show Sheldon’s struggles with moving through Wilkes’ home due to the injuries his legs sustained from his car accident.
“We’re letting the show breathe and showing the in-between that the book really talks about, but the movie and the play kind of touches on just a little bit,” Arnold said. “The moments that we have of Paul getting in and out of bed; how much of a struggle that is. We can’t hide that. We have to show that. How much of a struggle it is for Annie to deal with the situation that she’s in with the way that she thinks and the way that she lives in her world. So, we get to kind of showcase some of the fun stuff from the book in a very interesting way.”
Overall, Arnold believes it’s that kind of personal, intense perspective that will help craft the audience experience at “Misery.”
“I’m really excited for the audience to kind of come in and not only enjoy a good performance, but enjoy a really good, well-put-together show,” Arnold said.
“Misery” runs for six shows from February 24 through March 11 at Lakeside Community Theatre in The Colony. Tickets start at $20 before fees for standard general admission and $17 before fees for LCT members, students and attendees 62 years and older. Lakeside Community Theatre is located at 6303 Main Street, The Colony, Texas 75056.