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A CurtainUp Review
Recently, playwright Tracy Letts and Steppenwolf have gone Broadway with a vengeance. August: Osage County, the long, darkly humorous, sprawling family saga playing at New York's Imperial Theater, contrasts with his earlier intense, less mainstream plays.
In Bug, Agnes, a lonely and substance abusing woman, leads a life of "laundromats and grocery stores and dumb marriages and lost kids." Now she's caught between two guys: her dangerous and hearty ex, just out of prison, and a hesitant, but appealing stranger, who recently was a patient in a military hospital. There's a slow build --things get creepy, and twisted views become contagious.
Grace Gonglewski breathes true emotional life into her character, Agnes, with a level of acting skill that can only come from hard-won experience. It is easy to see why she has garnered an impossible four Barrymore Awards. Matt Saunders, a combination leading man /scenic designer, is Peter, the stranger. Saunders' acting, like his set design, is remarkable for its careful attention to detail. Roles of ex husband, Jerry (William Zielinski), caring friend R.C. (Charlotte Northeast), and polite yet ominously ambiguous Dr. Sweet (Producing Artistic Director, Joe Canuso) are handled well by this top notch cast, under the capable direction of Matt Pfeiffer.
The story transpires in a nondescript motel room so real it could have been lopped off one of the thousand crummy motels dotting the highways, and hauled onto the stage. Paul Moffit contributes authentic looking lighting design to Saunders' set while sound designer James Sugg delivers convincingly sporadic air conditioner noises along with effective incidental music and god knows what assorted sounds. The drop-dead realism degenerates into something a lot less rational when things go haywire. Bug is as tightly constructed as an alibi or an ant trap, a tale of psychotic conspiracy-theory paranoia carried to jarring extremes. But it's only paranoia. Right?
Once again Theatre Exile has chosen a work that's right for them. Making astute production decisions, they engage in remarkable theater, while grabbing the audience by the throat.
For Curtainup's review of Bug when it first played off-off-Broadway go here.
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