Fame has its definite drawbacks, and it’s a lesson Paul Sheldon learned the hard way.
His legs are broken, bones protruding at jaunty angles as a result of a wintry car crash somewhere in rural Colorado. But mangled bones are the least of his worries as his captor and number-one fan, Annie Wilkes, turns tormentor.
That’s the premise of Stephen King’s chilling psychological thriller Misery, which Arts Club Theatre Company brings to the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage Jan. 30.
“I had sort of known about it from quotes from the movie: ‘cockadoodie’ and ‘Mr. Man,’ but I hadn’t seen it because I’m not a horror fan,” said Lucia Frangione, who dons Wilkes’ homely garb in the two-hour production.
Despite her aversion to the genre, it’s a role Frangione has put to purpose after recently reading Misery, which King wrote after battling and eventually overcoming a cocaine addiction.
“Annie Wilkes embodies his addiction. Cocaine was his number-one fan,” Frangione said. “When I read it, I thought it can’t be horror; it’s a psychological thriller.”
While King may have been actually writing about the harrowing struggle of living with an addiction, Misery at its roots is a story meant to entertain and terrify, Frangione said.
And it’s a story that rose to Hollywood fame with the 1990 film adaptation that won Kathy Bates four awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, for her portrayal of Wilkes.
“I didn’t watch it because I didn’t want to compare myself to Kathy Bates,” Frangione said of the film. “When you play something iconic like this, it’s big shoes to fill.”
Though, it’s a story and set that comes alive on stage.
“What we do have over the movie is it’s live,” Frangione said, adding that audience members have lauded the Arts Club Performance above the film adaptation. “You can’t get so gruesome (in live theatre). It’s more about the psychological horror. There’s a bit of humour that balances out the play as well.”
Set largely in Wilkes’ home and with a focus on the bedroom of Paul Sheldon (Andrew McNee), Frangione said the set is brought to life with set design by Lauchlin Johnston, costume design by Stephanie Kong and lighting design by Andrew Pye.
“That’s why it lends itself so well to (theatre) adaptations. It primarily takes between two people in one location,” Frangione said. “This was a rare opportunity for the Arts Club to really have fun with the sets and props. It’s very much a character in the play, the house itself.”
For Frangione, Misery is also an opportunity to test out a role that is primarily dominated by male characters.
“This is the first time in my career I’ve played a real villain,” said the 30-year theatre veteran, adding that female villains often fall under the femme fatale archetype. “It’s just a real joy to experience that for the first time.”
And with Annie Wilkes, often regarded as one of King’s most horrifying antagonists, Frangione relishes in that villainous experience.
“It’s been very fun to make people leap in their seats.”
Arts Club Theatre Company presents William Goldman’s Misery, based on the novel by Stephen King, as part of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society’s 2017/18 theatre series Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $45 adult, $42 senior 60-and-up and $40 student through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.
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