Misery Gets Company: William Goldman, Author of "The Season," Pens Stage Thriller

By Robert Simonson
09 Nov 2012

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Frears joined the project in early 2011. Since then, the play has had a reading and two workshops.

"Bill's drafts have been so spectacular, that, the moment I came on board it's just had this wonderful momentum," told Frears. "It's kept moving forward in the nicest, easiest way."

Goldman said getting back on that rusty bicycle was a little tricky, but only at first. "I hadn't written a play since the last century," he said, "so it was all kind of complicated, but it worked. It's gone very well so far." To prepare for the project, Goldman reread the novel he'd pored over so many times before, and revisited his screenplay as well. (Goldman declined to discuss a long-rumored musical stage version of his wildly popular novel and film, "The Princess Bride.")

The Misery play opens with the sound of a car crash — the incident that results in the injured writer, Paul Sheldon, being accidentally discovered by the disturbed fan, Annie Wilkes. After that, we are at the house.

Frears (Off-Broadway's Omnium Gatherum, Still Life, The Water's Edge) believes the story should be acutely realistic in order have the desired effect. "I felt very early on that we had to be at a certain level of reality, because so much of it takes place in that room. Mostly because there are these astonishing moments of violence and terror in the middle of it, we all felt we had go there — you had to see those ankles crunch. If you didn't really deliver that satisfyingly, in a sense you weren't doing Misery. And that's what the people came for."

The director said he hoped the production would work both as a character drama and as an old-fashioned thriller.

Jed Bernstein

"What's spectacular about it is you feel so much for both of these people," he said. "It's not a gore-fest. It's not, 'How much longer until we do something scary?' Because it's two people in a room, wanting two different things, it's dramatic in that way. And then there's this thriller thing running inside of it. I want it to be both effecting and affecting. You want the audience screaming, and then you want them thinking about these characters. You want it to be complicated."

Bucks County Playhouse, a regional theatre with a long and colorful history, was chosen as the play's first home. "When we sat down with [Bucks' producing director] Jed Bernstein to discuss bringing Misery to the Playhouse, we knew that this would be the perfect place to develop the show," said Warner Brothers Theatre Ventures executive vice president Mark Kaufman. "As a company with many projects in the pipeline, we're very grateful to have the Playhouse as an ideal partner for the development of this unique piece of theatre."

Stephen King has kept his distance during the developmental process, said Goldman, but has sent colleagues to check out the play's progress. The project's future will be ascertained following the Bucks run. If all goes well, perhaps Goldman will be part of his first Broadway season in a half-century.

As for that famous "Season" that he observed decades ago, Goldman is amused that people are still interested. "It was an odd experience because I think I went to the theatre 200 times that year," he recalled. "I saw everything. And some of the shows, five times. Everything, at least twice. I went to Philadelphia and Boston. It was a strange experience. I'd never done anything like it. I don't think there's anything else like it."