By Cathleen Leitch
In a hotel room outside of Oklahoma City, Agnes White (senior Joanne Nosuchinsky) stumbles drunk around the room. The phone rings but when she answers, no one speaks. It rings again and still no one is there. It rings yet again, and Agnes is now annoyed. She yells into the phone at Jerry, her ex-husband, and still no response.
The latest play opened Feb. 18 at the Yvonne Theater on the Lawrenceville campus. The opening scene set the tone for Bug by Tracy Letts: creepy, lonely and dark.
Nosuchinsky gave the seemingly simple character of Agnes some complexity. The anti-social drug user longs for companionship, but finds more paranoia and fear. Her ticks and mumbles add to her paranoia.
The next scene introduces two more of the five characters in the play: R.C. (senior Brie Applegate), a fun and flirtatious close friend of Agnes, and Peter Evans (junior Justin Kelly), a new face in town and the voice of reason throughout the show. A connection is formed immediately between Peter and Agnes. Both as untrusting as the other, they find solace in their social separation and Peter stays the night.
Jerry (senior Tommy Butler) is introduced to the audience the next morning, and it’s clear Agnes is more afraid of him than she is of unfamiliar people. Peter has left and returns just after the first act of violence in the play occurs.
Agnes is bleeding but Peter’s timid character won’t stand up to Jerry. He runs to Agnes’ side the minute Jerry leaves. The paranoia becomes clear later when Peter gets a bug bite — one bug bite — and it’s all downhill from there. The two are secluded, and this feeds their psychosis. The first mention of “them” from Peter alerts the crowd there’s more than social awkwardness going on.
The play does not skimp on the gore, from the hit by Jerry to the cut Peter inflicts on himself, to the horrifying pulling of his tooth. Kelly’s screaming as he removed it sent shivers through the crowd; the pain and blood sounded and looked so real, and the salt from his tears could almost be tasted.
Emotions ran high throughout the play. The most explosive scene left the audience breathlessly horrified as Kelly perfectly depicted the actions of a madman. Peter wants the bugs out. He thrashes around the stage, hitting everything with amazing force.
The end of the play comes with shock and is by far the most vicious and intense scene.
The crew of the show did a stunning job with the set and the effects. The rashes, the blood and the wounds were fantastically real. The set changes were smooth and gave the crowd time to breathe. The use of music only added to the eerie feeling and brought the play to another dimension.
Director Patrick Chmel’s cast selection was one of the greatest parts of the production. Butler was frightful and despicable as Jerry. Nosuchinsky and Kelly had an unmistakable chemistry. The emotional experiences of the characters seemed true to the actors: Their paranoia was palpable, the wounds authentic and self-inflicted.
Bug mixes horror with humor, romance and conspiracy and hits so many places in between. The play is dark from start until finish and somehow simultaneously stops the mind and makes viewers think. This production of Bug will not easily, if ever, be forgotten.