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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Stephen+Cloud+%28left%29+plays+Paul+Sheldon%2C+an+author+who+finds+himself+at+the+mercy+of+his+No.+1+fan%2C+Annie+Wilkes%2C+played+by+Bethany+Rand+%28right%29.+%28Blake+Wolf%2FThe+Collegian%29
Stephen Cloud (left) plays Paul Sheldon, an author who finds himself at the mercy of his No. 1 fan, Annie Wilkes, played by Bethany Rand (right). (Blake Wolf/The Collegian)

‘Misery’ is a terrifyingly superb performance

“Misery” premiered on Friday, Oct. 28, at Fresno State’s University Theatre, giving audiences a scare to celebrate the Halloween season.

The script for the production was written by William Goldman and based on the well-known horror novel by Stephen King, which was made more famous in a 1990 film of the same name starring Kathy Bates. Fresno State’s premiere of the production was directed by Thomas-Whit Ellis. 

“Misery” revolves around Paul Sheldon, an author of romance novels that feature Misery Chastain, a fictional Victorian-era woman. After being caught in a freak winter storm, Paul is saved by Annie Wilkes, his self-proclaimed “No. 1 fan.”

The play begins with Paul, played by Fresno State alumnus Stephen Cloud, waking up inside a cabin. Annie Wilkes, played by Fresno State student Bethany Rand, informs Paul that he has broken his legs following a car accident outside Silver Creek, Colorado. With a run time of an hour and 50 minutes, the play explores the deepening insanity of Annie as she attempts to keep Paul within the confines of her cabin.

Paul’s gratitude quickly turns into a worried concern, with Cloud’s performance throughout the play taking him through fear, anger and determination as he faces a hopeless situation at the mercy of Annie. The audience can feel his panic and frustration in his attempts to escape the cabin.

Annie’s delirium and constant shifts in mood keep audience members on their toes. Rand’s remarkable performance showcases Annie’s infatuation with Paul and his work. Her expressions, body language and dialogue deliveries perfectly conveyed the derangement of Annie. 

At a later point in the play, Buster, a sheriff played by Sabrina Ramirez in her acting debut, visits Annie’s cabin to speak to her about Paul’s disappearance. Ramirez’s portrayal of Buster successfully captures the sheriff’s growing suspicions of Annie’s involvement in Paul’s disappearance as she pieces together the clues surrounding the car crash.

Joel Ayala’s lighting design and Liz Crifasi’s sound design make the production and the portrayal of the characters much more organic and convincing. Thunder and lightning roar throughout the stage, with strobe lights reinforcing the tenseness of each scene. The subtle change in lighting as Annie spirals deeper into her madness makes Rand’s performance much more unsettling.

As the light slowly turns from a neutral light into a deeper red, audiences can feel a growing sense of panic and danger, coming together for a truly terrifying final climactic scene.

Friday’s showing was a reminder that audiences can expect an expertly crafted production when they attend University Theatre shows. 

All in all, “Misery” is a strong follow up to “4,000 Miles” and is an incredible production with superb use of lighting, sound, props, stage design and a talented cast and director. It is the perfect play for Halloween and is sure to give audiences a scare.

“Misery” will continue to show until Nov. 5. Tickets can be purchased on the University Theatre’s website.

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