Driftwood Players

"Misery" Nov. - Dec. 2005

By Stephen King, Adapted for the Stage by Simon Moore
Directed by Ron Rogers

 Kathe Rowe: (Annie Wilkes) Tim Shute: (Paul Sheldon)

Misery Set
Set Design: Ron "Cork" Rogers
Set Dressing: Margaret Tingwall
Pictures: Keith Krueger

From The Daily World, Thursday November 17, 2005

'Misery' may be sweet at the Driftwood

By Jeff Burlingame
Daily World A&E Editor

    Comedies, farces and musicals traditionally generate the biggest box offices for Aberdeen's Driftwood Players, now in their 46th year as one of the Northwest's top "little theater" groups.

    Stephen King's "Misery" -- dramatic, shocking and literally bone-jarring, but also punctuated with wry humor -- isn't traditional Driftwood fare.

    Set to open its eight-performance run at 8:15 Saturday night, some are betting "Misery" will be a huge hit.

    On the whole, however, "Audiences want to laugh," first-time director Ron Rogers acknowledges. That fact, along with a few others, caused some hesitation among the members of Driftwood's Board when it met last year to review potential scripts for the 2005-06 season. It had rejected "Misery"  the year before.

    "When it came up before, there were some other choices that fell more into the comedy-type of play that a lot of our audience members seem to be interested in," says Board President Doug Simons. "But we're finding that our audience is aging and we're not getting a lot of newer people into the theater.

    "One of the things we wanted to try to target this time was the type of play that would draw people in, because once we get them in the door they come back."

    Rogers didn't change anything this go-round before resubmitting "Misery."

    "It helped for the board to know there was a group who were serious about this production," says Rogers. "It also helped that we were not trying to promote a two-person play right after a one-man show ("An Evening with Sam Benn") as in the previous season.

    "I also reminded the board that they may have a limited pool of directors and needed to be willing to take a chance on a new director if they want to expand their pool."

    Many directors push for dramas over comedies because they present more of a challenge, Simons says.

A household favorite

    Rogers' persistence in presenting "Misery" may pay off for Driftwood.

    An Ocean Shores chiropractor, he says the show has long been a favorite in his household and, when he discovered a theatrical adaptation existed, he quickly ordered the script.

    "It has great suspense, some moments that are shocking and dramatic, but it also has a quirky humor that makes it more than just an average suspense/thriller," Rogers says. "Mostly, it has the character of Annie Wilkes that makes this such a great story. This is the kind of part any actor or actress would kill for."

    Veteran Driftwood actress Kathe Rowe stars in the role and won it without having to stash any bodies in the basement of the theater.

     "Kathy Bates' performance as Annie Wilkes in the movie version earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress. That certainly sets the bar pretty high for our Kathe," Rogers says. I think Kathe Rowe is incredibly talented and immediately believable on stage. She has avoided modeling Kathy Bates by becoming intimately familiar with the character as described in the Stephen King novel. She brings the whole range of her emotions into this role: She makes you laugh one minute and squirm the next."

    The equally seasoned Tim Shute is the only other cast member. He plays Paul Sheldon, a romantic fiction writer who awakens from an automobile accident to find himself severely injured and recovering in the isolated home of his self-proclaimed "No. 1 fan."

    James Caan played that role for Hollywood but Rogers says Shute's portrayal reminds him a little more of what Richard Dreyfuss might do with the part.

    "There is a certain amount of arrogance in the character and yet this doesn't alienate the audience," Rogers says. "Tim's job is to pull the audience into his space, to make it empathize with his character. They should be asking themselves, 'What would I do if I was him?' Tim does a great job of that.

    "When he auditioned, I asked him if he could scream. His scream alone could have won the audition. For those who know Tim, it will be worth the price of admission just to hear him scream."

    That's not the only reason the director believes people should pay the $10 ticket price.

    "There is a large pool of Stephen King fans of the movie version of 'Misery.' Those people will not be disappointed in our production," Rogers says. "For people who are not Stephen King fans or do not feel drawn to this particular genre, I think they will also enjoy the play because the characters are so entertaining."

    Those concerned with "blood and gore" shouldn't worry, the director says.

    "I would reassure those people that we have tried to maximize the suspense while minimizing the actual gore. I think audience members will be on the edges of their seats a few times but they needn't worry that they may get splashed with stage blood if they are in the front row. Also this play has a surprising amount of humor in it and our actors make the most of the lighter moments."

    Though he's been acting with Driftwood for years, as a first-time director, Rogers is required to have an experienced director as his mentor. Rick Bates fills that role this go-around. There are also some talented people on-board to help with sound and lighting (Bates and Larry Tingwall) and the set (an unrelated Ron Rogers, Margaret Tingwall and Bill Garrison).

    "You'll see seasonal weather changes, and experience changes in lighting and background music that help to set the moods for the different scenes," the director says.

    Despite the challenges of getting "Misery" to stage, Rogers believes it'll all be worth it. The buzz he's hearing has been unlike any play he's been involved with.

    "I have been distributing posters to the Ocean Shores community for all of the Driftwood productions for a number of years," he says. "This is the first time I have had young people at various businesses react so enthusiastically. I get comments like, 'Stephen King? Cool! Where is this place?' " 

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