‘Bug,’ by New Moon Theatre Company
Performances continue at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 4 at TheatreWorks, 2085 Monroe. Ticket prices: $15 for adults, $20 for seniors and students. Call 901-484-3467.
More than a decade before Tracy Letts became the wildly popular, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of the drama "August: Osage County," he wrote a disturbing little psychological horror story called "Bug."
Requiring copious amounts of stage blood and long scenes of total nudity, "Bug" arrives at TheatreWorks just in time for Halloween, though parents will want to keep their children far away from this creepy piece of theater.
New Moon Theatre Company manages to create an eerie ambiance with a limited budget, and while some parts of the script come across as too silly to qualify as suspenseful, the company ultimately gets credit for making the story amusing, if not particularly satisfying.
Tracie Hansom, straight from playing a prostitute in "Hot L Baltimore" at Playhouse on the Square, is a down-on-her-luck waitress holed up in a seedy motel room in Oklahoma City.
Agnes spends her time doing hard drugs with her tough lesbian biker friend R.C., played by Kell Christie. Mostly, she's keeping a low profile from her abusive ex-husband who has recently gotten out of prison. Gregory W. Boller's Jerry is a powder keg waiting to go off.
The wild card in the mix is Agnes' new love interest, Peter. John Dylan Atkins, the recent recipient of a Larry Riley Rising Star Award, plays a sketchy though seemingly nonviolent Gulf War veteran who has some serious psychological issues.
For those who have seen the 2008 movie version of "Bug," or at least, the previews to it, bugs are indeed the antagonist of the play. The strange bites that appear all over Peter's body may or may not be real, but they nevertheless begin to drive him mad. The emotionally vulnerable Agnes, damaged by her past, has no one to cling to but her new boyfriend and his dubious evidence of an infestation.
Their battle with the insects takes over the second act of the play. While it is impossible not to roll the eyes or snicker at several overacted scenes, "Bug" is a fun show to watch at the very least from a technical perspective. As the seedy hotel room begins to reflect the disheveled state of the characters' minds, the stage crew — Heather Malone, William Henry and Ron Gordon — have their work cut out for them.
For Gene Elliot, director, "Bug" may not be the most challenging work in New Moon's history. But for Gene Elliot, prop master, this play has to be a labor of love.