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Now that the commodity musical is here to stay, the obvious next step is the commodity play. That’s “Misery” all over. Adapted by William Goldman from his screenplay for the 1990 film version of Stephen King’s best-selling novel, it’s strictly for those who liked the movie so much that they’re willing to pay to see it re-enacted onstage—so long as the cast includes a screen star. Enter Bruce Willis, who hasn’t set foot on a New York stage for three decades but needs no introduction to the kind of person who goes to Broadway plays solely to see stars in the flesh. Nor is there any other reason to go to “Misery,” which has nothing else to offer save for the chance to get Mr. Willis’ autograph after the show.
You know the plot: Mr. Willis plays Paul, a romance novelist who crashes his car in Colorado and awakes to find himself laid up in the spare bedroom of Annie (Laurie Metcalf), a middle-aged nurse who claims to be his “number-one fan.” Not only are both of his legs broken, but Annie turns out to be crazy….
While the film of “Misery” simplifies the novel, it succeeds spectacularly well in scaring the audience, in large part because of Kathy Bates’ Oscar-winning performance as Annie, which is both creepy and (here’s the key) completely plausible. Not so “Misery: The Play,” which is as scary as a lukewarm cup of Nesquik. Two big things are wrong with it: Mr. Willis never seems even slightly frightened, and Ms. Metcalf, though she leaves you in no doubt of her craziness, isn’t pitiful….
Arthur Miller’s “Incident at Vichy,” which was last performed in New York six years ago and hasn’t been seen on Broadway since the original production closed there in 1965, is a creakily earnest one-act play about a group of 10 Frenchmen, most of them Jewish, who are ordered by the Vichy police to report to “a place of detention” (Miller’s words) for unknown reasons. Ninety minutes later…but you can figure the rest out for yourself. While waiting to learn their unsurprising fate, they make speeches, some of them craven, others noble, and all written in the well-known Miller manner…
Michael Wilson, lately of “The Trip to Bountiful,” ratchets up the dramatic tension much higher than you’d think it could possibly go, and his ensemble cast is superior…
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To read my review of Misery, go here.
To read my review of Incident at Vichy, go here