Bug: The Preview

Ken AshfordLocal InterestLeave a Comment

Nice little write-up of the upcoming show, with a picture of yours truly, in today’s Winston-Salem Journal:

Play is guaranteed to bug you

Director says psychological thriller will leave the audience stimulated, surprised and wanting another chapter

Sunday, August 12, 2007

By Mary Martin Niepold

Bugstab He’s never been one to choose the easy stuff, the plays that any director worth his salary knows are sure bets for filled seats. Instead, Jamie Lawson, the artistic director of The Theatre Alliance of Winston-Salem, likes the edge.

Lawson loves to entertain audiences, but he also likes to go past established norms by presenting such plays as The Full Monty, his last production for The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem that put nudity on stage – or his current love, Bug, a contemporary, psychological thriller that upends our notions of everything from sanity and drug use to wife abuse and reality. Violence, terror, laughter and nudity are mixed in along the way, and no one under 18 is admitted. Period.

Lawson says he hasn’t been this excited by a play in a long time.

“Of the hundreds of shows I’ve seen and directed, this, by far, is the most edge-of-your-seat show I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It makes Wait Until Dark look like the Mickey Mouse Club.” Bug, written by playwright Tracy Letts from Oklahoma, premiered in the United States in 2001, and this year’s movie version with Ashley Judd sank at the box office.

The play is set in a sleazy motel in Oklahoma City where a substance-abusing wife named Agnes is hiding out from an abusive ex-husband who is about to get out of prison, and she’s scared. She is comforted by a handsome stranger, a Gulf War vet named Peter. Meanwhile, an infestation of bugs unnerves everybody.

Lawson sits around rehearsals at SECCA with two of Bug’s actors, Mark March, who works at Old Salem and plays Peter, and Ken Ashford, a lawyer who plays Peter’s friend, Dr. Sweet.

All three agree that this play is really about challenging our notions of what we think is real. The play gives no pat answers, they say, but it does give the actors lots of room for interpreting their characters.

March, who plays the menacing lover, Peter, said, “It’s difficult not to play a stereotype – like a man who’s obviously not in his right mind. Peter could be mentally disturbed, definitely has big problems – or – he’s been the subject of military experiments.”

“Or, he’s completely sane,” said Lawson, the director.

“I promise you, it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen, not even in movies,” Ashford said.

“There’s a lot of paranoia going on, essentially with every character,” March said. The play is not written, however, with an obvious sequence of events.

“It’s not like you know when they cart Blanche off at the end of the play when she goes beserk,” said Lawson, referring to A Streetcar Named Desire.

The volleying continues, but no one is going to give away the plot, the ending or much else about Bug. That, as Lawson said, is for the audience to figure out.

“I guarantee you,” he said, “you definitely don’t see the end coming, but you’ll walk away wanting a sequel.”

■ Bug will be presented by Theatre Alliance at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Aug. 23-25, and at 2 p.m. next Sunday and Aug. 26 at Dunn Auditorium, SECCA, 750 Marguerite Drive. Ticket are $14; $12 for senior adults and students. Call 768-5655.