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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  

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