Has the army really tested microscopic man- eating bugs on the hunky mysterious Peter? Does lonely druggie Agnes, a mother who’s lost her kid, really see the critters, or is she sharing cocaine-
induced delusion with her new boyfriend? Agnes’s best friend sees nothing. Oh God, is she part of the conspiracy too? If the answers to these questions were less ambiguous, Tracy Letts’s Bug would work seamlessly. The play doesn’t allow you to find your footing easily. Still, it touches on profound themes, like the power of love to alter one’s grief-swept reality.
In protracted mourning, Agnes has retreated from life—and her abusive ex—to a tacky Oklahoma motel room. When she takes in Peter, a gentle, secretive stranger, a romance ignites, setting off an increasingly grisly series of events—with comically macabre notes. The motel room becomes an armed camp against microbes and menacing conspirators. Director Dexter Bullard (with fight director J. David Brimmer) whips up joltingly realistic stage violence that makes visceral the play’s disturbing undercurrents. Shannon Cochran as the harrowed Agnes and Michael Shannon as her haunted, self-destructing lover head Bullard’s finely tuned ensemble of five. With characters less cartoonish than those in Letts’s Off-Broadway sleeper Killer Joe, Bug creates a vulnerable couple you care about as they careen toward an inevitable cataclysm.