5 Things to Know: The stage version of ‘Misery,’ based on the Stephen King novel and movie, opens at Fresno State

Just in time for Halloween weekend, Fresno State’s theater department gets a little ghoulish – or at least bone-cracking – with its new production of “Misery,” based on the Stephen King tale. The show, directed by Thomas-Whit Ellis, is in its opening weekend and continues through Nov. 5. Here are Five Things to Know:


The play came after the novel and movie.

Stephen King’s tale of a popular romance writer who breaks his legs in a car accident and is cared for by a woman living in a remote Colorado cabin came first in book form, of course. The 1990 Hollywood film, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan, became a pop-culture mainstay.

This version of the play didn’t come for a long time, but there’s still a strong connection between it and the film. William Goldman adapted his Hollywood screenplay for a 2015 Broadway production starring Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf. (She received a Tony Award nomination.)


There are only three characters, which helps give the show a claustrophobic feel.

For most of the play, it’s only two people on stage: Paul Sheldon (played by professional actor and Fresno State alum Stephen Cloud) and Annie Wilkes (played by student Bethany Rand). A pivotal third character, a local sheriff (Sabrina Ramirez), also pops up in key moments.


Stephen Cloud was one of director Thomas-Whit Ellis’ first students at Fresno State.

“I suggested he audition for the BFA program at USC,” he says. “I have been in touch with him off and on for many years, as is the case with others who have gone on to successful careers in the business.”

(For an interview with Cloud, see Diego Vargas’ preview article in the Fresno State Collegian.)


Yes, the line is in the show.

“I’m your No. 1 fan,” Annie tells Paul. He appreciates it – at first. Who doesn’t like to be revered? Then, as it becomes apparent to Paul that he isn’t getting out of Annie’s cabin anytime soon, the line takes on a more ominous tone. It became an ‘80s catchphrase.


The Fresno State production is an intimate affair.

Actually, “Misery” is better suited to be presented on a larger proscenium stage rather than a black-box-style space such as the Woods Theatre, Ellis says.

“When pitching the show, I hoped I could be slotted into the larger theater … Directing it in the smaller, intimate theater poses huge challenges for myself and our design team. But the benefit is the intimacy between audience and performer. We are invited into Annie Wilkes’ home in an immersive manner, which is the same feel like to present when doing African American stories.”


Finally: Yes, yes, yes, the sledgehammer makes an appearance.

“Misery” fans know it’s coming. Brace yourselves.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Jeri

    I’m a big Stephen King fan and have been looking forward to this play since the season was announced. Seeing it tomorrow.


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