Avon Players’ ‘Misery’ Highlights the High Price of Fame

There is a well-known adage advising people not to meet their heroes because they’ll only end up disappointed. And nowhere is this sentiment truer than in the story of Avon Players’ latest production, Misery running now through March 25, 2023, in Rochester Hills, MI.

Misery is a best-selling book by famed horror novelist Stephen King, which went on to become an iconic film starring Kathy Bates and the late James Caan. The Broadway play is written by William Goldman and starred Laurie Metcalf and Bruce Willis.

A psychological thriller, Misery revolves around novelist Paul Sheldon (Jeff Stillman) and his Number One Fan, Annie Wilkes (Laura Flores).

Paul has made a lucrative career out of his Victorian-era heroine Misery Chastain. But like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes, Paul has tired of Misery and decides she’s better off dead, so he is free to pursue writing other, more contemporary stories. The play opens with the sounds of a car crash. In his haste to leave Misery behind, Paul takes off for Los Angeles during a snowstorm only to total his car in a remote Colorado town and wake up in the home of Annie Wilkes.

Physically, Paul is a mess and suffering from multiple injuries such as a dislocated shoulder and broken legs. Fortune seems to have smiled on Paul because Annie, his caretaker is a former nurse who is absolutely delighted to have her favorite author in her home. At first, their relationship is pleasant, with mutual appreciation – Paul is grateful to be alive and Annie loves being able to share how much the character Misery means to her.

Paul Sheldon (Jeff Stillman) realizes it will take more than clever writing to keep his Number One Fan Annie Wilkes (Laura Flores) happy.
Photo credit – Avon Players Theatre’s Facebook page

But it all quickly turns sour when Annie reads Misery’s Child and finds out her beloved heroine’s fate. Furthermore, she thinks Paul’s new manuscript is rubbish and forces him to burn his only copy. From there she buys him everything he needs to write a new ending to Misery’s saga while keeping Paul locked in his room and dependent on her for his medication and other needs. Little by little, Annie morphs from savior to torturer and Paul must figure out how he can play her game to make it out alive. Annie’s anxiety amps up when the Sheriff, Buster (Al Bartlett in his Avon Players’ debut) keeps snooping around asking if she’s seen or heard anything relating to Paul.

Director Mike Olsem was quoted in the press release saying, ‘Paul’s sense of danger must build over time.’ Unfortunately, most of the time Stillman’s performance comes across as a man who is annoyed rather than a man who fears for his life and is fighting for survival. There needed to be more tension and a sense of urgency to mirror his dire situation.

I also wish Flores would have come across as a little more maniacal and menacing rather than simply hysterical and exasperated by not getting her way. Flores (Calendar Girls) and Stillman (A Few Good Men) are both wonderful actors and have the chops to really tear into the meat of these characters. Perhaps it was opening night jitters. Or maybe, this is the direction they were given. Their performances were entertaining; I just wanted more intensity.

While the play doesn’t contain as many macabre moments as there are in the book and movie, I still found myself wishing there was a bit more noticeable buildup of suspense in the scenes. As morbid as it sounds, in my opinion, the best scene is when Annie mutilates Paul as a form of punishment. The energy and passion exhibited by Flores and Stillman are what I wanted to see in more of their interactions with each other. I kept anticipating more jump scares or holding my breath as I waited to see what action unfolded next. Instead, prolonged periods of silence stretched between scene changes to the point where you could sense the audience shifting uncomfortably in their seats as if unsure whether clapping was appropriate. And while there are a few intentionally funny moments in the play, there are also times when the laughter didn’t seem to fit the scene. For example, when Paul and Annie are rolling around on the floor as he fights for his freedom. This should have been a riveting final moment that instead elicited chuckles because of how comical they looked. Maybe I came with different expectations than what the cast and production team envisioned.

Overall, the audience gave the impression they enjoyed the performance – even giving a standing ovation at the end. This show is definitely more campy horror entertainment rather than true white-knuckle horror and is still a play worth seeing.

This performance runs approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Tickets for all shows are $25. Call 248-608-9077 for tickets or order online at www.AvonPlayers.org. Discounts on matinee tickets are available for seniors and students; call the box office for details. Additionally, group rates are available by calling the box office. “Like” Avon Players Theatre on Facebook for special offers on tickets. All major credit cards are accepted. All seats are reserved. 

Show dates and times:

  • Saturday, March 11       8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 12         2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, March 17           8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 18       8:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 19         2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, March 24           8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 25       8:00 p.m.
About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.


  1. Tami Van Hee says

    I purchased 4 tickets and am excited to see this on Sat 3/18…can you tell me how long the play is? Thank you

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