King me

It’s been a busy week at the theatre – here’s just one the latest openings

MISERY (Canadian Stage). To May 31. 416-368-3110. See listings. Rating: NNN

Kathy Bates won an Oscar for the film version of Misery, and Nicola Cavendish deserves at least as much for her white-knuckle-inducing performance in this stage version of the Stephen King thriller.

She plays Annie Wilkes, the nurse who pulls romance writer Paul Sheldon (Tom McCamus) out of a car wreck, treats his wounds and declares herself his number-one fan, even though that adoration includes torture, self-righteous lectures and one brutal scene involving an axe.

Cavendish is so convincing, she turns the play into a study in psychopathology. Annie’s moods plunge from manic to depressive and back again, evoking not just fear but ­sympathy (along with the occasional laugh with, not at, her). Mc­Camus, in the less flashy role, nails every plea and outburst by his egotistical and ­resourceful writer.

Simon Moore’s adaptation is more effectively claustrophobic than Rob Reiner’s 1990 movie, and it works well for the stage, where you can see the battle of wills played out without wide-angle camera tricks. A shame about David Storch’s production, however. James Fisher’s sound design seems to sample from a remaindered CD called Spooky Noises. Bretta Gerecke’s semi-abstract set takes time to adjust to, dominated as it is by dozens of thin sticks that partially obstruct the interior of Annie’s house of horrors.

Nice touch, however, to place Annie in a large chair so her feet barely touch the ground. Talk about creepy.

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