Love is misery

Misery Blue Room Theatre, Thursday, Feb. 12. Shows Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m. through Feb. 28; actor benefit, Sunday, Feb. 29, 7:30 p.m.

Having gained a strong trust for the consistent quality of the Blue Room’s productions, I figured the company’s take on Stephen King’s tale of authorial woe would be at very least entertaining and well-produced. And it was.

Misery is a black-hearted satire of all those books on dysfunctional codependent relationships that crowd the self-help shelves of book stores. And, on a more literary level, it explores the tortured relationship between the commercial artist and his audience/muse.

Betty Burns as the mad nurse Annie Wilkes is incandescent in her portrayal of an obsessive fan of romance novels who gains the opportunity to simultaneously hold her favorite writer captive and nurse him back to health. Rob Wilson, as schlocky romance novelist Paul Sheldon, gives a convincingly excruciating portrayal of an artist held captive by his biggest fan.

The opening section of the play, told in a series of very short scenes separated by blackouts, was a bit too fragmented for character development, but once the story is established Burns and Wilson turn in performances that transcend the logic-gaps and plot holes of the story and deliver two indelible characters locked in an alternating cycle of childlike affection and manic cruelty that builds to a satisfyingly violent climax.