BUG – theatre review with itch

by Dick Kerekes
Gainesville’s Acrosstown Repertory Theatre presented a run of Tracy Lett’s comic/sci-fi/drama, Bug a play by the 2008 Pulitzer Prize/Tony Award winning playwright Tracy Letts. I had never seen any of his work previously. Since winning those coveted awards, Lett’s previous two plays have been receiving attention from theatre around the country. Bug written in 1996, and Man From Nebraska in 2003, are very much cutting edge plays and might be shows that local theatres could consider. I wish First Coast Theatre Arts was still in business in Jacksonville because both would be right up their alley.
My second reason for going to see Bug was to reintroduce myself to Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, a group I reviewed several times a few years ago until the productions of the Jacksonville theatre groups conflicted with their production dates.
Acrosstown has a small theatre space in an industrial complex at 619 S. Main Street in downtown Gainesville, just a few blocks south of the main drag, University Street. It has less than 100 seats and is a very imitate space. It is an all volunteer organization that has lots of energy and creativity, and very diverse selection of plays.
Here is a brief synopsis of Bug that pretty well sums up the basics this play about the lower depths of society play. It takes place in a seedy motel in Oklahoma excellently designed by Set Designer Brie von Hausch. (Reminded me of some of the places I rented in my younger roaming days). The central character is a cocaine/alcohol abusing waitress named Agnes (Samara Golabuk), hiding from her ex-con husband Jerry (Edward Ray). Agnes’s lesbian biker friend, R.C. (Raquel Petree) introduces her to a wandering Gulf War Veteran Peter (Adam Lishawa), who seems pleasant enough at the onset, but soon is ranting and raving about the war, government experiments on soldiers (including him),and of course, bugs. Yes, bed bugs, Peter finds while engaged in love making with Agnes. The show turns pretty wild at this point, with visit of a Dr. Sweet (Liz Gillis) who is not really human but a type of robot.
How does this all end up? Well, let me just say it is not a happy ending. In case BUG does not make it to a playhouse anywhere near you, there was a movie made in 2006, starring Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr and Michael Shannon.
Director James Henri’s direction kept this a fast paced show despite the periods of silence but that is a trade mark of a Tracy Letts play. Theatre Critic Pam Kragen wrote, “Lett’s plays are known for the atmospheric use of silence.” I have to agree, especially in the first act.
I think all the actors performed well, with the leads very good in demanding roles. Ms. Golabuk, the love-starved Agnes had a ton of lines and was stage the entire show. I especially liked Mr. Lishawa’s portrayal of Peter, who you really liked for the first fifteen minutes until he turned psychotic.
One of the hardest working members of the production team had to be Zackery Ryan (makeup/special effects). I mean all that blood and gore is hard to make look real, but he did.
The play also had a lot of profanity and some brief nudity, so it was a full evening of excitement. When you are in Gainesville check them out. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors and students. Their last two shows of the season are: Salt and Pepper by Jose Cruz Gonzalez and Play it Again, Sam, by Woody Allen.
The play certainly had its effect on me. When I arrived back at my motel after the show, I checked carefully for bugs (bed and other kinds as well) but found none!!!!