Late in the extraordinarily entertaining, two-plus hour laugh fest Shining in Misery – the just-opened Capital City Theatre entry in the World Premiere Wisconsin festival – its evil genius makes clear just how dire things are for the poor souls trying to escape. “My best ghouls are just over there,” he crows with glee.
We can only see one such ghoul, but no matter. When reading Stephen King – or, in the case of Shining in Misery, watching a parody of Stephen King – the underland we’re afraid to see is always teeming with vampires and ghosts, demonic clowns and monstrous pets, the beasts we fear we are and the terrors that keep us awake.
“There’s more of them,” the devilish Randall Flagg says of his ghouls. “I can’t bring them over here because of limits of actors and costuming but trust me when I say, they’re there.”
And that’s par for the course – not just in this parody but in nearly every American musical, which burst into song, defy gravity, and reach for the stars because there’s invariably more in the world that one can ever capture through life’s daily dialogue of busy nothings.
Yes: most of the terrific actors in the Capital City ensemble play multiple roles. And yes: Karen Brown-Larimore’s evocative costuming makes each of them come alive.
But as the demonic Pennywise the Clown tells us in an early number, there’s always at least one hundred spirits lurking in the darkness at the edge of the King universe. No matter how many actors there are or how much we think we see, there’s always more, crowding in the wings and waiting to appear on stage.
Shining in Misery conjures it all.
Aided and abetted by Mark Eugene-Garcia’s lyrics, Andrew Abrams’ expansive and sophisticated score channels musicals galore, in a gleeful pastiche that simultaneously tilts toward the operatic, while also suggesting a Wagnerian orgy of folklore and myth, replete with horror-laden leitmotifs and ghoulish grace notes.
For all the mayhem and murder, the dominant note at the performance I attended was laughter; I’ve never – and I mean never – heard more of it while watching a show on the Playhouse stage. Gloriously campy and loaded with sight gags, Shining in Misery had the audience in stitches, yours truly very much included.
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Writer/Actor/Storyteller. Theatre Maker. Husband. Bad Hombre. Cat Taunter.