Misery Loves Company


Couple Leaves the Drama at the Stage Door

Marriages, like most relationships, depend on trust. A spouse wants to know that their partner has their best interest at heart, that one would never purposefully harm the other.

Trust is particularly important when one spouse is going to be swinging a mallet toward the other spouse’s ankles four nights a week and Sunday matinees.

Say what now?

That is the position in which Tampa Bay theater veterans Summer Bohnenkamp and David Jenkins find themselves as they prepare to portray Annie Wilkes and Paul Sheldon in Misery, based on the 1987 Stephen King novel. William Goldman adapted his script for the hit 1990 film for the stage version. The film, directed by Rob Reiner, starred James Caan as Paul and Kathy Bates as Annie. Bates’ portrayal of Annie won her the Best Actress Oscar®.

Save for one other minor character, the play is just Paul, a romance novelist who is rescued from a car accident by Annie, a dangerously obsessive fan of Paul’s. Perfect roles for a married couple.

The pair have worked together on many productions; in fact, they met in 1999 while both were in the cast of Whirligig. For the most part, though, they’ve had little interaction on stage.

“We haven’t acted in that many shows together,” said Bohnenkamp, the Straz Center’s Chief Programming and Marketing Officer. “We’ve worked together either as director and actor, actor and director, director and designer, actor and designer. This will be the most onstage interaction we’ve had, that’s for sure.”

Bohnenkamp (left) and Jenkins (right) in a promotional photo for Jobsite Theater’s Misery.

“This is going to be kind of new territory in a way,” said Jenkins, producing artistic director of Jobsite Theater, the Straz’s resident theater company which is producing Misery.

Bohnenkamp and Jenkins, who married in 2001, say keeping their work and personal relationships as separate as possible is key to being able to work and live with one another.

“Summer and I are both really business-minded people who tend to be relatively unemotional in a working situation,” Jenkins said. “It’s really easy to put the relationship to the side when you’re working.”

“We’re both pretty much professional compartmentalizers,” Bohnenkamp said.

Neither Jenkins nor Bohnenkamp seem particularly phased about playing opposite each other, despite the adversarial and violent nature of the Misery roles.

“I feel bad because a lot of people think that the whole idea of working together is going to generate all this juicy stuff,” Jenkins said. “And I feel like it never does.”

“It’s just super regular for us,” Bohnenkamp said. “So, it’s actually not that crazy. But I do hope it drums up a bunch of ticket sales. Because if early conversational interest is any indication, a lot of people say they want to come see it.”

The Straz’s Senior Director of Communications, Paul Bilyeu, has been encouraging the couple to do Misery for years, Bohnenkamp said.

“He just liked the idea,” Bohnenkamp said, “or maybe he just wants to see us kick the sh*t out of each other.”

Any trepidation the two might have about Misery has less to do with the story and characters and more to do with carrying what’s basically a two-person play.

“Ninety percent of the show is just the two of us,” Bohnenkamp said, “and it’s been a long time since either of us have had to carry quite so much weight on stage. So that’s scary.”

Both prefer to leave the drama at the stage door – which is not to say conflicts don’t arise.

“We’ve had more work-based arguments than we’ve ever had personal arguments,” Bohnenkamp said. “Work’s maybe the only thing that causes us problems.”

“We’re both used to being in charge, and of course we both think we’re right, usually,” Jenkins said. “But it’s not like we have some explosive, combative working relationship. We wouldn’t do it if that was the case. We just kind of have to navigate it.”

Check out our Sledgehammer Spotify playlist, specially curated by Straz Center Wordsmith and former Tampa Tribune Pop Music Critic Curtis Ross.

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