Don't expect Die Hard Bruce Willis in his Broadway debut in Misery at the Broadhurst Theater. As best-selling author Paul Sheldon in the play based on a beloved if frightening film based on a beloved if frightening Stephen King book, Willis drops the tough guy pose, making most of his moves in a vertical position. That's because he's been in a terrible car crash, and fortunately saved from the wreck by his number one fan, Annie Wilkes, as feisty and superb as the seasoned actor Laurie Metcalf gets. Annie has made up a lovely bedroom for him in her house, and she's got plans, wielding both a mallet and a rifle as needed. A good case could be made for gun control, at least background checks for crazies.
Don't expect Moonlighting Bruce Willis either. The snappy repartee factor is wan, even though he plays a writer speaking writer William Goldman's script, under Will Frears' direction. You get used to his quiet, nevertheless, as he convalesces, secretly manning a wheelchair through the rooms to find a kitchen knife. A dinner scene where he tries to sedate his captor is exceptionally well done: the house with its various spaces inside and out is beautifully realized by a team that starts with David Korins; claustrophobia sets in early.
What you don't get, in ample supply in the film and novel, is his mind's agility in making Paul's negotiations and resignations to Annie's nutjob demands. It feels like there's no there-there, behind the man confined to bed by this bossy fan who knows how his career should go. The articulation of a novelist's worst nightmare, Misery's psychological dilemma is the fundamental exit to writer's block, and a triumph in the end.
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