A rogue male aphid’s dining on Agnes and her new friend Peter? No, he says. Must be a female, a “matriarchal aphid,” and she isn’t just slicing skin, she’s spawning a world-wide infestation from a roadside motel in Oklahoma.
No wait! It’s technological omniscience? Each bug has a built-in transmitter and will burrow into every person on earth so the Powers That Be can keep track of us all.
Or — Peter’s carrying egg sacks injected into him as part of a four year, CIA/NSA experiment at Groom Lake (that’s Area 51, for non-conspiracy theorists). He swears he was a guinea pig, same as the rural African-Americans given syphilis at the Tuskegee Institute in the 1930s, or the alleged AIDS “monkeys,” or the non-detectable super virus that morphed into CFS, Fibromylagia, and Gulf War Syndrome.
Or maybe the government’s right: Peter’s so profoundly self-delusional he can infect others with off-his-meds notions.
Poor, harried Agnes most of all. She lost her six-year-old son, Lloyd, at a mall years ago. She’s “hermetized” herself in the motel, self-medicating with mind-numbers. Her husband, Jerry, just “did a deuce for armed robbery.” He’s out of prison, and headed her way.
One of Thomas Pynchon’s “Proverbs for Paranoids,” in his great novel Gravity’s Rainbow: “if you have them asking the wrong questions, you won’t have to worry about the answers.”
The bottom line in Tracy Lett’s Bug: ideas and fears, real or imagined, can be as addictive as a drug and can spread like a virus.
Ion Theatre’s been on an amazing roll. They stage one demanding play after another — and all with different demands — in their small space and pull them off.
In some ways, it’s as if Ion’s playing “can you top this” with itself. The production solved major technical issues, but the opening performance had some uneven acting — which in time should get solved as well.
The script calls for a spartan motel room that grows increasingly insular: flypaper, insect repellants, finally tinfoil walls, all done in rapid scene changes — and in the dark.
Co-scenic designers Ron Logan and Claudio Raygoza, aided by Karin Filijan’s eerie lighting, never call attention to the difficulties in the doing.
Some performances did, though. The opening scenes lacked fluidity. Some in the cast wore the Oklahoma accents rather than breathed them. Timing was tentative.
Then Hannah Logan (Agnes) and Steve Froehlich (Peter) took over. Froehlich made his local debut, as a sensitive outsider, in Ion’s reasons to be pretty. Here he’s an object lesson in never typing an actor. In Bug he’s the exact opposite. Peter begins soft-spoken and near-immobile. In the end, whether he’s meta-delusional or seeing the world truly, he’s blazing crazy. And believable.
For those who didn’t see her one-person show Work: In Progress at the Fringe Festival last summer, Hannah Logan’s stunning performance as Agnes might come as a surprise. Those who did won’t be surprised at how fearlessly she strips her emotions bare (and clothes, for that matter; the production has nude scenes) and performs as if legions of vicious insects are marching toward her soul.