Misery:Horror meister Stephen King certainly knows a thing or two about the vicissitudes of fame. Like many a writer before him, King draws on personal experience for his short novel Misery, a grim fairy tale about a famous novelist held captive by his "number one fan." The 1992 play is directed with feverish intensity by Joseph Adler and features not-to-be-missed performances by a crackerjack cast of two. Although the script fails to fully exploit King's tale, the production is a Grand Guignol of horror and humor. In this modern fable, a riff on the classic wicked-witch-in-the-woods motif, the naive author stumbles into the dark gingerbread kingdom that lurks beyond the familiar world of logic and daylight. Stephen G. Anthony anchors the show and provides a thoroughly credible performance as the wounded hero -- no small feat considering he's onstage the entire show. But Lisa Morgan's chilling portrayal of Annie is captivating. (Through September 4 at GableStage at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. Call 305-445-1119)
In Talley's Folly, by Lanford "American theater icon" Wilson, it's July 4, 1944, and middle-aged St. Louis accountant Matt Friedman has driven under cover of night to woo spinster Sally Talley on her family farm in bucolic Lebanon, Missouri. Matt lures Sally down to the family's elaborate, decaying Victorian boathouse -- the eccentric "folly" built by Sally's ancestors. As crickets chirp this Independence Day, what are an aggressive suitor and his reluctant girl to do? Chatter for an hour and a half, of course, about regrets, secret pasts, and pessimistic visions of their future. However, by the time the mysteries behind Matt's existence as a refugee Jew and Sally's spinsterhood are dropped in the last 20 minutes, you just don't care anymore. The production's actors don't fully occupy their roles in the way this "waltz" of a play requires to make it work and are mired in a play perhaps only a true Lanford Wilson lover will appreciate. (Through August 28 at Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs. Call 954-344-7765)
A play called If We Are Women in a place called the Women's Theatre Project? Shocking but true. What sounds like scary Lifetime television, though, is a satisfying exploration of how moms develop their own rich lives, or at least attempt to against varying odds. Canadian playwright Joanna McClelland Glass has composed an all-star team of female archetypes -- a divorced novelist surrounded by her sassy daughter, her country-mouse mother, and her city-mouse ex-mother-in-law -- then placed them on a late-June Connecticut beach house deck and let them scrimmage. Like menopausal John Maddens, the grandmas provide color commentary while mother and daughter get their games on. The resulting culture-clash coffee klatch might make guys squirm slightly. The payoff, though, is an evening with four strongly developed, warm characters played well by Lacy Carter, Jennifer Gomez, Kay Brady, and Elayne Wilks, who have great stage chemistry together. (Through August 28. Women's Theatre Project at the Studio, 640 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-462-2334)
Shakespeare's shortest tragedy is one of his most magnificent, but it's quite a task to stage, perform, and watch. Director Rafael de Acha's stark, modern-dress staging of Macbeth solves some but not all of the play's formidable problems. Purists may grit their teeth at the many textual cuts and revisions. The famous banquet scene is a stripped-down stand-up cocktail party, and the climactic battle in the last act is dispensed with altogether. The Weird Sisters are not "withered hags" but busty leather clad Goth Grrrlz, whose writhing choreography looks like something out of Chicago. De Acha emphasizes the erotic energy of Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare's most powerful female character, and as Bridget Connors plays her, it's easy to see how Macbeth would bend to his wife's will. Connors' fiery, sensual performance combines verbal felicity with emotional and physical commitment. In the title role, Keith Cassidy brings a modern intensity and physical power; for once, this muscular Macbeth actually looks like a warrior. But Cassidy lacks a mastery of the text; many speeches are mangled with odd pauses and phrasings, and he doesn't use the language to drive the story forward. (Through August 28 at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables. Call 305-443-5909)
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