The medical treatment of post traumatic stress disorder and paranoia is in many ways un-chartered territory. The imaginings of so-called madmen frequently have some basis in reality, but it is through their perceptions and ready explanations for what reasonable thinking individuals would claim as balderdash that we see them as unbalanced and, in some circumstances, dangerous to themselves and others.
Directed by Kris Shaw, "Bug" is playwright Tracy Letts' attempt to weave a reasonable story about desperation between a couple, who are thrown together in a seedy hotel room and plunge unknowingly into the darkest recesses of fear and schizophrenia.
Jen Pagan plays Agnes, an emotionally and physically abused divorcee, who is trying to make ends meet as a waitress. Her ex-husband Goss (Casey Groves) is back on the scene following a stint in the pen. It is obvious that Goss is a sadist intent on establishing himself as her tormentor again, taking time break into her room to batter her mercilessly before robbing her.
It would seem that Letts is about to lead us down a path many dramas tread, where an abused wife is harrassed, perhaps stalked by her ex, but this is not to be. RC (Andrea Watson), a close friend who happens to be inclined to a little girl-on-girl action, brings in an itinerant named Peter, played by Ian Hoch, who is a sorrowful excuse for a human, at times tentative, sometimes menacing.
Perhaps because of needing a male shield from her no good former spouse or perhaps because she is emotionally unstable and in need of direction, Agnes descends down a hellish path with Peter of paranoia, suspicion and fear of conspiracies in everything. By the same deductive reasoning that Monty Python decided that a woman with a false nose must be a witch because she floated like wood, Peter and Agnes become embroiled in a co-dependent relationship that boils over into madness.
The major component of their perceived malady is that of an attack of bugs, specifically normally harmless, practically unseen aphids that are incapable of biting humans. No matter. For RC and Agnes their lives are completely overtaken in pursuit of how to get rid of the perceived pests and to prevent the powers that they believe are intent on afflicting them. The madness becomes manifest as they begin scratching the "bites" they receive from the false infestation.
James Wright adds his character of a caring Dr. Sweet, alerted to Peter's status as a PTSD-scarred soldier, who had escaped his mental facility. His performance is short, but moving. Watson's role as Agnes' concerned friend also is small, but serves as the voice of reason.
The cycle becomes more and more violent with horrific circumstances at the end of the two acts. This play has a lot of nudity in the first act, but the nudity between Peter and Agnes is necessary to highlight their co-dependent relationship and to strip away all the layers of clothing and their pasts as they attempt to deal with their struggles with reality. Both Pagan and Hoch are riveting in their shared path to ultimate destruction.
Jonathan Mares and Kris Shaw are to be congratulated for a thrilling adults-only presentation and one that is a credit to what they are attempting to bring to the Allways Theatre.
"Bug" continues at the Allways Theatre, 1030 Marigny Street, tonight and Saturday, August 15-16 and next Thursday, August 21- Saturday, August 23. For tickets, visit the Allways Theatre website.