By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review
The works of playwright Tracy Letts have been exceptionally popular with San Diegans, who were first exposed to Letts via “Bug,” an early, dark work that examines possible government experimentation and conspiracy from the inside out, as it were (Out! Out, damn tooth!)
Cygnet Theatre made audiences squirm in 2006 when they produced “Bug” at their former Rolando space. Most everyone went home breathless, astonished and itching — part of the deal. We sometimes buy into others’ paranoia no matter how paranoid and delusional it is.
Now, ion theatre, which specializes in discomfort, places “Bug” front and center at their Elaine Lipinsky Stage through February 8.
Agnes (Hannah Logan), the protagonist of “Bug,” buys into paranoia thoroughly, partly because she falls in love with Peter (Steve Froelich), a seeming sweet and gentle AWOL Gulf War veteran. Peter’s first bug shows up soon after Agnes’ ferocious lesbian friend R.C. (Amanda Morrow) brings Peter over. Soon Peter is in Agnes’ bed, and soon Agnes is itching and so are we.
A barmaid, Agnes is holed up in a sleazy Oklahoma motel, hoping to escape her violent ex-husband, who has just gotten early release from prison. Poor Agnes — out of the fry pan and into the fire. As it turns out, the real menace may not be the bugs, delusional Peter, or even Scary Jerry, but the mysterious Dr. Sweet (Erik Poppick), who has been tracking Peter.
ion recently introduced Froelich in “reasons to be pretty.” Even playing a jumpy character, he is exceptionally natural and therefore a joy to watch. In her ion debut, Logan is a real find as well. She is attractive and convincing. More, please. The pair is well matched and extremely easy on the eyes, whether clad in Mary Summerday’s stressed casual wear, imaginative underthings, or in the all together. So we have suspense, mystery, nudity, paranoia, drugs, sex and critters — and it’s all a perfect fit, up close and quite personal in ion theatre’s tiny space. A perfect fit for co-directors Claudio Raygoza and Yolanda Franklin, “Bug” provides a 95-minute suspension of breath, and is recommended for mature audiences only. If you haven’t purchased tickets yet, do so immediately. As word spreads, “Bug” tickets will be scarce.
The play and the action are splendidly supported by sound designer Melanie Chen, lighting designer Karin Filijan and technical and effects coordinator Evan Kendig, who also delivers pizza. Ron Logan and Raygoza are co-scenic designers. Glenn Paris is producer.
Letts’ other plays are “August: Osage County,” “Superior Donuts,” “Killer Joe” and “Man From Nebraska,” all of them produced locally. “August: Osage County” is a major motion picture, currently screening locally.
When: 4 p.m. Saturdays and 8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays through Feb. 8
Where: ion theatre, 3704 Sixth Ave. Hillcrest
Tickets: $20 – $35
Info: iontheatre.com or 619-600-5020