Misery is a Gripping Psychological Thriller from Dominion Stage

Misery is a Gripping Psychological Thriller
from Dominion Stage

Dominion Stage
Jordan Wright
October 22, 2023
Special to The Zebra

L to R: Ellice McCoy as Annie, Robert R. Heinly as Paul (Photo/Cleo Potter)

Backgrounded by a mix of 1940’s film noir music with a smattering of classical piano, Misery reveals a dark plot. We expect exactly that from Stephen King’s horror novel. The play by William Goldman opened on Broadway in 2015 starring Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf long after Rob Reiner’s film adaptation starring James Caan and Kathy Bates premiered in 1990. Many of you will be familiar with this taut, psychological thriller from the movie in which Bates won a ‘Best Actress’ Oscar for her role.

Annie Wilkes (played by Ellice McCoy) has been described as bipolar, sadomasochistic, psychotic and schizoid. Annie describes herself to successful novelist Paul Sheldon (Robert R. Heinly) as his “number one fan”. “And trust me. There ain’t no number two,” she claims. These days we’d call her a stalker.

Ellice McCoy as Annie (Photo/Cleo Potter)

Annie follows Paul whenever he stays at a local inn where he writes his latest novels. One night in the middle of a huge snowstorm she notices his car has skidded off the road and he is trapped behind the wheel. Badly injured and unable to walk, she pries him out with a crowbar and takes him to her remote Colorado cabin. There, bed-ridden and unable to escape, Paul tries mollifying Annie, but she holds him hostage, demanding he write a better sequel to the Misery series he is so famous for. These days we’d call that an abduction. In her twisted mind she blames Paul for killing off her favorite character, Misery Chastain, and she tasks him with bringing her back to life in a sequel.

Veteran, local director Maggie Mumford keeps the tension at a high, edge-of-your-seat, burn rate. Yes, it’s terrifying, but you can’t look away, especially when Annie flips her inner switch and becomes a monster. McCoy and Heinly are especially effective in delivering the tension required for this terrifying two-hander.

L to R: Robert R. Heinly as Paul, Ellice McCoy as Annie (Photo/Cleo Potter)

Set and Properties Designer Peter Mumford expresses the tattered mind of a schizophrenic with patches of torn cloth hung like old clothes on an open screen behind which we can see Annie’s mood swings (and weapons!) before she enters Paul’s bedroom. To add further suspense to the spine-tingling atmosphere, Cleo Potter’s lighting design creates an eerie aura to spook even the most blasé among us.

If your taste runs to Stephen King’s sinister stories, this one’s for you.

With Danielle Taylor as Buster. Sound Design by Ruben Vellekoop; Costume Design by Anna Marquardt.

L to R: Robert R. Heinly as Paul, Ellice McCoy as Annie (Photo/Brian Knapp and Natalie Fox)

Through November 4th on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm by Dominion Stage at Theatre on the Run, 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information visit www.DominionStage.org.  

Boston Marriage is a Snappy, Salty Victorian Comedy by David Mamet at Dominion Stage

Boston Marriage is a Snappy, Salty Victorian Comedy by David Mamet at Dominion Stage

Boston Marriage
Dominion Stage
Jordan Wright
February 3, 2023
Special to The Zebra

Heather Plank as Claire, Elizabeth Keith as Anna, Nancy Somers as Catherine (Photo/Matthew Randall)

For those of you unfamiliar with Dominion Stage, the longest-running community theater in the DMV, it is located on the fringes of National Landing in Fairlington. A little more than three years ago the company merged with Port City Playhouse, another local community theater. Both companies are proud of their mix of contemporary, traditional, diverse and historically under-represented stories to reflect local community interests. Their motto is “Anything but Predictable” and that’s exactly what their audiences have come to expect.

With that in mind I returned after a long absence to see their current production of Boston Marriage by prolific author and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, David Mamet, best known for Glengarry Glen Ross, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Speed-the-Plow and a wealth of other award-winning plays and screenplays.

Quoting from the program, ‘A Boston Marriage’ was, historically, the co-habitation of two wealthy women, independent of financial support from a man. The term is said to have been in use in New England in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of these relationships were romantic in nature and might now be considered a lesbian relationship; others were not. (Source: Wikipedia)

Anna (Elizabeth Keith) is mistress to a married man who provides her with everything she needs to live in grand style. When her best friend Claire (Heather Plank) comes to visit, the two women have opposing interests in mind. Claire wants Anna to set up a liaison in her home and Anna is understandably jealous of Claire seeing another woman. Convincing Anna to go along with it takes nearly the entire first act. Although Claire disapproves of Anna’s cushy arrangement with her sponsor, she is eager to avail herself of its perks. “Men! What can we do with them?” she asks. “One thing!” declares Anna.

Nancy Somers as Catherine, Elizabeth Keith as Anna (Photo/Matthew Randall)

This clever three-hander combines the intricacies of Victorian Era etiquette with the salty dialogue of plundering pirates. It is absolutely, eyebrow-raising hilarious to watch these two begowned and bejeweled ladies intellectually argue the merits or worthlessness of Victorian social structure and its stringent mores while flinging around curse words more appropriate to an Army barracks. In a particularly funny bit, an exercise in sensuous pie-making by Claire prompts Anna to say, “Claire! You pagan slut!” – the insults here are as frequent as they are acerbic.

Catherine, played by Nancy Somers who recalls the great Carol Burnett’s iconic role as a maid, is Anna’s housekeeper – a neurotic Scotswoman whose country ways are anathema to the ladies’ indelicate ears. Between the three women you’ll hear some of the snappiest, silliest, and high-minded repartee heard on a stage. It’s like a tennis match with insults in lieu of balls. Director Matthew Randall keeps the pace on rapid dial until you feel yourself in free-fall and Charles Dragonette’s set design is so picture perfect I wanted to leap out of my chair and snatch a few scones from the tea service or pour myself a sherry from the breakfront just to keep up with the velocity of verbiage. I loved this fine cast whose characters are well-developed and whose comedic timing is rapid-fire.

Heather Plank as Claire, Elizabeth Keith as Anna (Photo/Matthew Randall)

Although the action takes place in a single day (no wonder it’s on fast-forward!), you’ll find yourself deep in the middle of planning a séance, enjoying the fashions and mores of the period, and plotting a tryst as thick as clotted cream. Heaven forfend!

Produced by Rachel Alberts with Lighting by Ken and Patti Crowley; Sound Design by Jon Roberts; Hair and Makeup Design by Rebecca Harris; Set Design by Charles Dragonette with assistants David Hyman and Alan Wray. Period costumes provided by The Little Theatre of Alexandria.

Through February 11th at Theatre on the Run, 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington, VA 22206. For tickets and information on performance dates visit www.DominionStage.org