Cast: Katherine Prebie, Aaron Henry, Eli Coats
Writer: Tracy Letts
Director: Justin M. Kirkeberg
I don’t go to the theater much. Wait that doesn’t sound right. That implies that I do go, just not very often. The theater is a venue whose presence once intimidated me. No, no, no, that only comes off that I think all stage actors are snobbish. Which makes me sound like an A-hole. Hmmm. How do I open this review?…….. Oh yeah! I got it. I am too broke to attend the theater. Most plays that run in my area cost way more then your average movie ticket price Some single tickets can cost more then a 3D I-MAX at night for a large family with snacks too. So when I see an ad for this play on Facebook and it says “Chose your Own Price”, I became very interested. I have seen the film version directed by William Friedkin with Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon and I really wanted to see the original play that it was based upon. I get to the box office and find out that the choose your own price method was on a different day. I was about to leave and come back a different day. When the lady behind the counter let me in with the price I could afford to see this play. That incredibly nice woman was Angela Walberg and she is the marketing producer over at Shadow Horse Theater(links will appear at end of review) and I thank her for letting my broke ass attend the show.“Bug” opens with a woman named Agnes(Katherine Prebie) on the telephone with her ex husband Jerry Goss(Eli Coats). Or at least that’s who she thinks is on the phone. Jerry has just been released from prison and Agnes is a little freaked out because he once tried to kill her. After the painful loss of her son and a very difficult divorce that most likely made her broke. Agnes turns to drugs and alcohol to help ease her pain a little more. When the story begins she lives in a small hotel room and is seen doing cocaine and drinking shots. Her best friend RC(Charla Marie Bailey) arrives with a guy she just met named Peter(Aaron Henry) and the three were about to set off for a party. Agnes declines going and so does Peter. It would seem like Peter is there mainly for sex but he genuinely wants to find more of a connection then that. Peter starts seeing bugs around the place. At first there are not that many, and it looks like only he can see them. He informs her that they are in his blood and that they were put there by the army to spy on him. Agnes doesn’t believe him at first but as their relationship develops. She starts seeing them too.
Now I know most of you reading this will react and just say that these two are nucking futs. But these are likeable characters and their journey is one that is difficult and yet understandable too. For Agnes, she has probably never before had any successful relationships with men. Her husband was abusive which led to her drug use and I’m sure that she has had drunken one night stands before meeting Peter. It’s Agnes who seduces him when they first have sex. In her past it would have been the other way around and it would have just been something to help fill the void of loneliness. Now she has a guy that she can talk with and who seems to care for her without the need to share her body with. That is a huge deal for her. I don’t really know much about Peter and it’s hard to grasp on if the guy is telling the truth or if he is just simply paranoid. Even the introduction of Dr. Sweet(Kevin Fanshaw) does little to prove either side is right. Like all good stories, we are left to interpret the material as we see fit.
(Trailer for the 2006 Film Version)
Having only seen the film version before I was very happy to see the actors on stage do a completely different version of those characters. Katherine Prebie as Agnes looks like a woman who has been involved with drugs for a long time. In the movie that character is played by Ashley Judd, who does a great job and I recommend seeing it. But she didn’t have the strength to make herself look more ugly the way that Katherine Prebie did. Maybe I was just seeing the celebrity and not the character. But, no because Charlize Theron was in “Monster” and I lost all recognition of that beautiful lady when she played that role. Michael Shannon plays the role of Peter in the film who also was in the stage production too. Aaron Henry’s take on the character is one that has more of a child like innocent type to it. You start to believe the guy because you kind of want to. The rest of the cast is really good. Eli Coats as Jerry was a bit more menacing then Henry Connick Jr and I never knew when he was going to lash out and hurt someone. Charla Marie Baily as RC has a great moment when she tries to take Agnes away from the hotel. It will break your heart when you see it. Kevin Fanshaw as Dr. Sweet is one that appears to be both real and not real. In some instances he appears like he is trying to help Peter and in some like he is there to capture him.
So to close out this review I will say that “Bug” is a very good play that is on par with the film. Some other plays that were turned into movies that I would like to see back in the play format include “The House of Yes, “Tape“, “Noises Off “, and “Clue“. OK the last one was never an actual play but it could be. To learn more about this production and all that Shadow Horse Theater has to offer please check out the links below