Crawling with terror, laughs, and gasps, Bug was the perfect play for Halloween weekend. Written by the great contemporary American playwright Tracy Letts, Bug predominantly takes place in the seedy motel room of Agnes White (played by Danielle Wehner, MCAS ’16) who numbs her misery with drugs while hiding from her violent ex-con ex-husband Jerry Goss (played by Ned Allen, MCAS ’16). One fateful night, Agnes’ lesbian friend RC (played by Mary McCartney, MCAS ’19) introduces her to the twitchy and shy Peter Evans (played by Andrew Meek, MCAS ’18) who Agnes finds hard to resist. As Peter’s delusional obsession with government conspiracies unfolds, Agnes is eventually drawn into his incessant paranoia and both are left slowly drifting into madness.
Director Nick Robinson, MCAS ’16, effectively balances the comedic aspect of the dialogue with the play’s creepy aura. Robinson also does a superb job of reeling the audience into the paranoid atmosphere on stage, which manages to make us itch all over. The cast is entertainingly terrifying to watch and portray their respective characters with great enthusiasm and visible craft. The supporting characters RC, Jerry, and Dr. Sweet played by McCartney, Allen, and Michael Pisaturo, LSOE ‘17, respectively, are all delightful to watch and their unfortunately short presences on stage leave the audience craving more.
The show’s lead Wehner conveys Agnes as a broken woman in minimal contact with the bitter world that surrounds her hazy motel room. Wehner is most effective in the most emotionally charged scenes. Her skillful portrayal of Agnes’s saddening desperation and loneliness is best exemplified in the scene in which she accuses Peter of not trusting her and begs him to let her in. The pivotal moment is artfully acted and compelling. However, Wehner falters slightly in scenes that are less emotionally complex and more mundane. The more casual dialogue seems too contrived at times and doesn’t quite capture the intended impact of the mundane. The audience fails to grasp the disturbing extent of Agnes’s depression and desperation in her more mundane depiction at the beginning of the show. Hence, there is somewhat of a void as she is pulled deeper and quite easily into Peter’s delirium.
The chemistry between the show’s two leads is another great aspect of the production that deserves recognition. Wehner and Meek bring out the best in each while their characters are simultaneously bringing out the worst, dragging themselves down into the depths of madness. Meek does an excellent job with the constantly creepy demeanor of Peter. His twitchy gestures, minced dialogue, and his transition from a shy madman to a raging one are enthralling to watch. Peter seems to have all the disturbing answers to pacify Agnes’s desperate questions, and Meek does the same for the audience. His shifty portrayal of Peter constantly leaves us guessing and craving more. Meek artfully molds Peter into a creepy yet ambiguous character while also highlighting his distinctions.
Although Bug may seem like a distant horror show from Oklahoma, it is actually, at its core, a relatable storyline. The dialogue in the play, although it may seem simple and blue-collar, is meticulous. With each word we dive deeper into the profound, abused minds of the characters and eventually, we find ourselves diving into our own as well.
Again, Robinson pulls the audience into his show, this time mentally. We are left connecting to these more disturbing thoughts in an incomprehensible way. Thus, at its foundation, Bug is about individual stress and strife. It is a terrifying depiction of how even the smallest of ideas or a negative experience can infect the mind to no end, causing one to spiral out of a control that the society around us dictates that we maintain. While pulling us into the crazy world of Agnes and Peter, Robinson’s Bug also, almost surprisingly, pulls us deeper into ourselves as well.
Featured Image by James Clarke / Heights Staff