Provocative is definitely the word when it comes to the Tallahassee Little Theatre production of “Bug.” After jumpstarting its 60th season with a crowd pleasing musical, TLT has now transformed its intimate coffee house into a suitable arena for a tale of psychological proportions.
Written by playwright Tracy Letts, “Bug” centers on Agnes, a cocktail waitress who all but isolates herself in her motel room. When she isn’t abusing illegal substances, she’s downing vodka shots like a certified alcoholic and clashing with her abusive ex-husband.
Things go downhill when she befriends Peter, a war veteran who seems to believe that there are bugs under his skin and before long, Agnes starts to believe him.
Perhaps she had one drink too many.
Therein lies the story of “Bug” – an innocent woman’s slow descent into utter madness.
The play first premiered in London at the Gate Theatre and soon garnered numerous awards and accolades during its run in America. It even spawned a 2006 film adaptation with Ashley Judd.
Directed by Chip Chalmers, TLT’s production of “Bug” boasts memorable performances by all five of its remarkable cast members.
As Agnes, Laura W. Johnson takes center stage in a role that could leave some actresses downright puzzled. She captivates the audience with her gullibility and provokes sympathy with her character’s sad deterioration.
Lanny Thomas, who is known for tackling hard-hitting roles in other gripping TLT shows, shines as Peter. The same can be said about the play’s supporting cast.
John Stevenson does quite a fine job portraying Goss, who is Agnes’ lackluster ex-lover. Owen Provencher energizes a small role as Dr. Sweet, a rather clueless psychiatrist who soon falls victim to Peter’s madness.
FAMU theatre professor Marci J. Stringer is also on hand as R.C., the jive talking lesbian sidekick to Johnson’s Agnes. As R.C., Stringer brings much needed spunk and sassiness to a role that clearly begs for it.
Cast aside, there are other positive things to note about TLT’s spine tingling production. For starters, “Bug” boasts an astonishing set design for such an intimate space. Designed by Marc Cramer, the set offers members of the audience a candid peek into Agnes’ dingy motel room and the horror that is soon to unfold.
Suspenseful music sets the tone of the show while superb makeup and prosthetics such as gruesome bloody gashes; hideous scratches and scars guarantee to make several audience members shift uncomfortably in their seats.
The play does offer a few jokes here and there as well as few unexpected twists and turns, but “Bug” is definitely not for the faint of heart – and for that matter, anyone under the age of 18.
There is nudity and profane dialogue. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door or online at tallahasseelittletheatre.org. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
With an able cast, a capable director and a brilliant set, “Bug” will undoubtedly leave viewers itching, squirming and clutching the hands of the person sitting next to them. It may even have some heading to the supermarket for a can of Raid.