Bug: The Reviews

Ken AshfordLocal Interest1 Comment

It’s a hit(?)  The Winston-Salem Journal writes a review of Bug.  Largely a plot synopsis, but — s’okay — it’s a positive:

“Buckle up and brace yourself … ”

So begins the recording that callers will hear when they dial Theatre Alliance for reservations to its latest production: a play by Tracy Betts called Bug, which opened last night in Dunn Auditorium.

The advertising is true. Patrons should prepare to be unsettled at every turn, for nothing is ever quite what it seems in this tension-filled, slyly comic and occasionally gross science-fictionlike drama. One thing is certain: bugs definitely bite two characters in a seedy motel room outside Oklahoma City.

The two characters are Agnes (Kelly Wallace), a 44-year-old drug-abusing woman who is making the motel her home until her lesbian friend R.C. (Cheryl Ann Roberts) introduces her to Peter (Mark March). It doesn’t take long for Peter to move into the room and then into Agnes’ bed. When he does, the bugs appear and grow in number and ferocity, as does the flow of blood from the bites and self-inflicted surgery. The bugs might live under Peter’s skin or they might live under his tooth. Who or what is responsible? Peter or the military?

Peter might be an AWOL veteran of the Gulf War. And he might be the victim of some diabolical government experiment. He might have lost his marbles, or he might be perfectly sane.

Agnes may have “lost” her son when he was taken from her in a supermarket six years ago. And she may be hiding out from an abusive former husband, Jerry Goss (Don Gunther). And is Dr. Sweet (Ken Ashford) treating Peter for delusional paranoia or is he in cahoots with something the government would prefer you’d never know?

Strong acting, particularly by Wallace and March, contributes to a pacing that is just right in Jamie Lawson’s staging. And however improbable some of the play’s content may seem, we gain a greater appreciation of a way of living most of us haven’t seen and likely never will.

It’s difficult not to sympathize with Agnes: If you’re as lonely, desperate and scared as Agnes is, drugs and booze and maybe a man, any man, become your escape.

Friends who have seen the show seem to enjoy it, as their clearly unbiased blog entries attest…

Emily Mark, now with Blogger (which is good because we get pictures) sez:

I was a little wary of seeing this show, as I’d read the script before and didn’t particularly care for it and I’d seen the movie, which was awful. The five actors in this production, however, changed my feeling on the story. I enjoyed the stage play quite a bit. All of the roles were very well-played, and there is a particularly stunning death scene at the end of the show played with utter poignancy and spot-on accuracy by our own Ken Ashford. I was most impressed by how each of the actors found the humor in each of their characters. Michael Caine says a good actor always finds the humor in his scenes, even when they’re incredibly dramatic. Each of these actors found those particular moments and it made for an excellent opening night. Special kudos go to Kelly Wallace (as Agnes White) and Mark March (as Peter Evans) for not only playing their characters beautifully, but for remembering all those freakin’ lines! Bravo!!

Is it any wonder I, like the rest of the world, am madly in love with Emily?

Heather Maggs, the other platoon leader of the Schmancy Purse Brigade, writes:

I went to go see the Theatre Alliance of Winston-Salem’s production of Bug last night and I was pleasantly surprised to be absolutely entralled the entire performance. I am not someone who is usually interested in non-musicals. They just don’t entertain me. However, this was one of the most well acted performances I have seen in the Triad and the realism was what shocked and astounded me. The play centers around a waitress living in a seedy Oklahoma City motel and trying to avoid her abusive ex-husband. One night her good friend, RC, shows up with a man she just met and trying to talk the waitress, Agnes, into going to a party. When Agnes refuses, the mysterious man asks if he can stay with her. He ends up staying the night at the hotel and as their relationship develops, they have sex. Later that night, the man, Peter, wakes up with a bug crawling on him and there begins a series of questions to which there are no answers and even if there were, you aren’t sure you would want to know them. Peter continues to see the bugs as they infest his body and the hotel room. Other characters can’t see them. At first, Agnes can’t but then she can. In a dizzy spiral of what is either delusional paranoia or the unraveling of a sick government experiment, the story of Bug unfolds. I won’t give away the story, but for every bit that this scenerio sounds far-fetched, the actors carry it through with 100% believablity. There is not one weak performance and there is no one person deserving of more praise than another. Kelly Wallace is a powerful lead as Agnes and Mark March more than matches her energy as Peter. Cheryl Ann Roberts and Ken Ashford have two of the more stunning scenes: one of which features a shocking death and the other a head-to head showdown between two "realities." I can not for the life of me remember the name of the actor who played Agnes’s ex-husband, but menacing doesn’t even begin to describe his portrayal. I was physically and emotionally disturbed each time he was present on stage, part of that can also be contributed to Kelly Wallace’s fine acting. Jamie Lawson does a bang-up job directing this difficult piece while Jeff Driver’s set is a force all its own. The stage crew got to have a lot of fun with this show, I can tell!

Please go see this show. It will not only leave you questioning, but you will find surprising moments of laughter.

I’m glad Heather liked this.  Like me, she’s a psych major, and therefore kind of intrigued by the dark side of human psychosis.  Some people don’t like going to the theater for a mindfuck, but I had a feeling Heather would be into that.