An unusual play to say the least, Bug delves into the macabre and clearly psychotic as the protagonists move from a reasonable relationship to one defined by increased drug use, self-mutilation and bizarre violence.
Set in Oklahoma, the drama begins in the motel room of forty-four-year-old freebaser Agnes and her drug-abusing friends, two of whom have stopped by the motel to share a pipe of crack cocaine. As one leaves for a party, the other, a stranger, chooses to remain. Peter Evans, quiet and unassuming, requests only that Agnes allow him to spend the night on her floor.
Increasingly harassed by an ex-husband recently released from prison, Agnes is happy to have Peter’s company, frightened by what her ex may do and terrified of sleeping alone. Although the relationship begins with one night of physical intimacy, the couple soon descends into the drug-induced haze one expects with crack cocaine, the scenes becoming more bizarre as Evans convinces Agnes that he is being attacked by bugs from inside his body.
A sick codependency evolves, complete with hallucinatory visits by Agnes’ ex-husband. Before long, Agnes is a willing partner, Peter spinning out a fantastic yarn of government experiments run amok and his true identity. Frequently hitting the pipe, they spiral into an advanced paranoia that has no basis in logic, a twisted world view that ends in self-mutilation, murder and an inferno.
Peter’s bugs signal the beginning of the end, the induced paranoia growing in proportion to the intake of drugs, the raucous accompaniment of a hovering helicopter, and unbelievably eccentric characters including the CIA and a psychiatrist come to collect an errant Army “experiment”.
In an American Psycho-Quentin Tarantino kind of fugue, Letts samples the dark side, but it is hardly a pleasant journey. While powerful, this play is definitely for a niche audience, building to a disturbing emotional crescendo. The play has been made into a film starring Ashley Judd; I can’t wait to avoid it.